The terrorist group al-Shabaab has claimed an attack on Garissa University College in eastern Kenya, in which an unclear number have been killed and many others taken hostage.
Al-Qaeda’s alleged involvement in the Paris attacks not only highlights the continuing threat from al-Qaeda in general, which must not be underestimated; it also underscores the similarities and differences between al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Al-Qaeda may not have regained the global threat potential that it posed a decade or so ago â€“ at least, not yet. But its local and regional efforts have made it, in many cases, a powerful and entrenched source of instability. If left unchecked, such local and regional power can grow into something altogether more terrible.
Without a broader regional approach â€“ and a consensual one at that â€“ neither South Sudan nor the region as a whole are likely to see more stability in the future.
Hopefully, the sheer scale of the Nairobi attack serves as a wake-up call that triggers a renewed effort by Somalians, their neighbours, and their international partners to come together and finally address a decades-old crisis that has slowly but undeniably spun out of control.
Within the countries of the Arab Spring, the forces unleashed by the sudden opening of political spaces were largely inexperienced, remain fearful and intolerant of each other, and were easily manipulated in regional and global proxy conflicts.
Western powers can and must play a key role in containing the threat posed by al-Qaeda, if only to to create the space in which local political, religious, civic, and business leaders can eradicate the fertile ground of regime illegitimacy from which al-Qaeda will otherwise, more likely than not, rise and rise again.
The White House announced that the US would start providing military aid to some of the rebel groups, but it remains unclear whether arming rebel groups in Syria will contribute to achieving the stated aims of US and UK policy: to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously, and to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism.
President Obama’s confirmation that the United States would begin arming Syrian rebels has prompted an urgent debate about both the legality and the effectiveness of the decision.