State Collapse, Insurgency, and Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Somalia

  • November 01, 2013
  • Dr J Peter Pham



For more than 2 decades, Somalia has been the prime example of a collapsed state, resisting multiple attempts to reconstitute a central government, with the current internationally-backed regime of the “Federal Republic of Somalia” struggling just to maintain its hold on the capital and the southeastern littoral—thanks only to the presence of a more than 17,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force. Despite the desultory record, the apparent speedy collapse since late 2011 of the insurgency spearheaded by the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior Youth, al-Shabaab)—a militant Islamist movement with al-Qaeda links—has made it fashionable within some political and military circles to cite with little nuance the “Somalia model” as a prescription for other conflicts in Africa, including the fight in Mali against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies. This monograph takes a closer look at the situation in order to draw out the real lessons from the failures and successes of the counterinsurgency effort in Somalia.