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Cambridge, MA — Experts on terrorism in Africa and the Middle East released a report today indicating that Al-Qaeda cells, although few, are thriving in the region. The report points to a lack of U.S. leadership in the Horn of Africa and Yemen and offers recommendations for U.S. foreign policy.
The Program on Intrastate Conflict, under the auspices of the Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, convened a group of experts from the security, diplomatic, policy, and scholarly communities over a period of several months to dissect the roots of terrorism in the region. The group concluded that:
* Al Qaeda operatives and sleepers in this region are few, but dangerous;
* Cells linked to Al Qaeda exist throughout the region, and beyond into Kenya, Tanzania, and the Comoros;
* Al Qaeda may also embrace or be embraced by the many current insurgent operations or warlords within the individual countries; and
* A lack of high level U.S. leadership and coherent vision impedes progress in the region.
The report, which included input from eleven ambassadors and four security and military figures, offers a systematic analysis of the region and outlines specific areas in which U.S. leadership is lacking and stronger action should be taken. Recommendations include:
* The forum for regional discussion, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), should invite Yemen to attend meetings and coordinate activities. Successes in the battle against terror in Yemen depend on helping the Yemeni government expand its provision of governmental services beyond the capital and major cities.
* Wahhabi charities, largely funded by private Saudi money, are opening mosques, schools, health clinics, and social centers throughout Ethiopia and the region. Washington should assist the governments in the region to improve their governance capacity to limit the potential negative impact of the spread of terror.
* Helping Ethiopia and Eritrea to stand down from their as yet unresolved war over honor and trivial sections of territory is a key priority, with vast regional implications for terror reduction.
* The U.S. should upgrade its embassy presence in Khartoum, Sudan, appoint a new special envoy, and develop a comprehensive policy toward the wars and other problems of the Sudan that fully engages all agencies of the U.S. government.
“Washington must help focus attention on these issues in order to eradicate terror in this region,” said Program Director Robert Rotberg. “The conditions in the Horn of Africa make the region ripe for recruitment by Al Qaeda and like-minded groups. Time is running out to prevent the spread of terror.”
The report “Combating Terrorism in the Horn of Africa and Yemen” is the latest in a series of policy reports produced by the Belfer Center Program on Interstate Conflict and Conflict Resolution. All are available on the website: http://bcsia.ksg.harvard.edu/?program=WPF