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Viewing cable 09NAIROBI1801, SOMALIA - CODEL MARSHALL SCENESETTER: HOW

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09NAIROBI1801 2009-08-26 05:05 2010-12-08 21:09 SECRET Embassy Nairobi
VZCZCXRO1077
OO RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHNR #1801/01 2380536
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 260536Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0783
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA  IMMEDIATE
RUZEFAA/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE IMMEDIATE
RUZEFAA/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE IMMEDIATE
RHMCSUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 NAIROBI 001801 

SIPDIS 

DEPT FOR H - PLEASE PASS CODEL MARSHALL 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2019 
TAGS: PTER MOPS PINR OREP KE SO AF IZ
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - CODEL MARSHALL SCENESETTER: HOW 
IRAQ/AFGHANISTAN RELATE TO SOMALIA 

Classified By: Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger for reasons 1.4(b) and 
(d). 

1. (S//NF) Summary: U.S. Embassy Nairobi warmly welcomes 
CODEL Marshall and looks forward to your September 1-3 visit. 
We note your questions regarding media reports that pressure 
in Iraq/Afghanistan has prompted al-Qa,ida to shift some of 
its operations/efforts to Somalia (ref A). To address this 
question, we have reviewed a body of available information 
from press, embassy, and other reporting. The rise of 
al-Shabaab and the increase in foreign fighters operating in 
Somalia warrants significant concern; several al-Qa,ida 
operatives, most notably Saleh Nabhan, have a history of 
involvement in East Africa and are currently cooperating with 
al-Shabaab leaders and involved in training foreign fighters 
in Somalia. We speculate that, due to pressure especially in 
Afghanistan, al-Qa,ida could consider Somalia a safer 
training ground for foreign fighters, some of whom may intend 
subsequently to travel to Afghanistan or Iraq. However, 
based on a review of foreign fighter trends and 
al-Qa,ida/al-Shabaab operations, we are unable to establish 
a strong correlation between recent military pressure on 
al-Qa,ida in Iraq and Afghanistan and increased al-Qa,ida 
influence/efforts in Somalia. Nonetheless, there is a clear 
threat from al-Qaida linked extremists and growing numbers of 
foreign fighters in Somalia over the past several years, 
which are directly challenging the efforts of the 
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to establish itself. 
End Summary. 

Foreign Fighters: Origins and Motivations 
----------------------------------------- 

2. (S//NF) Many of the foreign fighters currently operating 
in Somalia, particularly those who entered to fight the 
Ethiopians from 2006-2008, are ethnic Somalis, recruited from 
either neighboring countries or diasporas overseas and 
motivated in the past by a sense of Somali nationalism, 
jihadist propaganda, and the presence of foreign troops in 
the country. As widely covered in the press, this includes 
North Americans, including at least 20 young men who were 
recruited from Minneapolis alone, and recruits from European 
countries with large Somali diasporas. Fighters have also 
come from within East Africa, most notably Kenya and Sudan. 
In addition, press reports and our conversations with Somali 
government officials note the presence of an unknown number 
of non-Somali fighters from South Asia and the Middle East, 
including Pakistanis, Yemenis, and other unidentified 
&Arabs8. We speculate some of these fighters may have 
chosen, or been directed to, Somalia for training and to gain 
jihadist experiences because Somalia currently affords 
comparatively greater safety for camps and other sites than 
South Asia or Iraq. 

3. (S//NF) Neither we nor the Somali government knows 
exactly how many foreign fighters are in Somalia, as 
reporting varies widely. Statements by Somali government 
officials mention several thousand foreigners, which we 
believe are exaggerations, or at best estimations based on 
fighter sightings and rumors. During the intense May and 
June fighting in Mogadishu, there were numerous reports of 
foreign fighters interspersed with al-Shabaab, likely 
directed from camps in Southern Somalia as reinforcements. 
Conversations with Somali political leaders, suggest that as 
of mid-August, significant numbers of al-Shabaab forces have 
left Mogadishu and dispersed across southern and central 
regions of Somalia. 

4. (S//NF) The timing and motivation of foreign fighters 
arriving in Somalia appears tied to perceptions of internal 
Somali dynamics. Our conversations with Somali political 
leaders highlight that some foreigners were already present 
during the Council of Islamic Courts period, and that the 
Ethiopian intervention in 2006 both prompted some foreigners 
to flee, and provided motivation for a new influx of foreign 
fighters, including ethnic Somalis determined to drive 
Ethiopia out of Somalia. Al-Shabaab,s territorial gains in 
2008, and the subsequent Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia in 
January 2009, prompted additional foreign fighters to join 
what was seen as a successful struggle. Regardless of their 
initial motivations, these young recruits are subject to 
indoctrination and use by violent, often foreign, extremists, 

NAIROBI 00001801 002 OF 003 


as demonstrated by Shirwa Ahmed, an ethnic Somali from 
Minneapolis who became one of the suicide-bombers 
perpetrating multiple attacks in Puntland and Somaliland on 
October 29, 2009. 

5. (S//NF) Al-Qa,ida leaders in early 2009 publicly 
endorsed the Somalia &jihad,8 capitalizing on al-Shabaab,s 
gains by launching a rhetoric campaign designed to encourage 
aspiring jihadis to travel to Somalia, and portraying Somali 
President Sharif as illegitimate. In the first half of 2009, 
Al-Qa'ida issued several videos praising al-Shabaab, 
denouncing President Sharif,s government, and urging 
fighters to travel to Somalia. Most notable among these 
propaganda efforts was a statement attributed to Usama Bin 
Laden titled &Fight on Champions of Somalia,8 and similar 
videos by senior al-Qa,ida leaders, including Aymen 
al-Zawahiri and Abu-Yahya al-Libi(Ref B). 

6. (S//NF) Beyond the public support from al-Qa,ida videos 
encouraging foreign fighters to travel to Somalia, there is 
scant evidence of significant direct al-Qa,ida financial or 
military support for extremists in Somalia, or a foreign 
fighter pipeline from Iraq or Afghanistan. Other support for 
Somali militants, largely in the form of financing and 
smuggled weapons, comes from a variety of sources including 
Eritrea and conduits through Eritrea, diaspora remittances, 
smuggling from Yemen, and likely business donors in the Gulf 
States. These appear to be important external sources of 
support for anti-TFG militants in Somalia. 

7. (S//NF) Within Somalia, al-Shabaab,s core leaders 
cooperate with several al-Qa,ida operatives with a long 
history in the region. Most notably, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, 
who was active during the 2006 Council of Islamic Courts, and 
currently remains in Somalia, has made a concerted effort to 
cooperate with key al-Shabaab leaders, and is actively 
recruiting and training foreign fighters. These senior level 
extremists are long-time operatives in East Africa, rather 
than new arrivals from Iraq or Afghanistan, although the new 
influx of foreign jihadis likely contains individuals with 
agenda's beyond the Somali insurgency. Nabhan, with his 
transnational agenda and involvement in training foreigners, 
makes the situation even more dangerous. 

Kenyan CT Efforts 
----------------- 

8. (S//NF) Kenyan security officials have worked to address 
the threat of terrorism in Kenya, and are aware of the trend 
in foreign fighters and the smuggling of support to 
al-Shabaab, some of which transits Kenya. Kenya fears that 
al-Shabaab will begin conducting cross border attacks, and 
has deployed military forces to positions in eastern and 
northern Kenya near the Somali border. Kenya has attempted to 
close this border, but the consistent flow of Somali refugees 
demonstrates the difficulties inherent to controlling this 
long, porous, and largely unregulated border region. In 
addition, the TFG and the Government of Kenya are secretly 
considering an offensive in the Juba region of Somalia, aimed 
at pushing al-Shabaab out of the key port of Kismayo and 
neighboring areas in Southern Somalia (reftel C). 

Comment 
------- 

9. (S//NF) While we speculate that al-Qa,ida may consider 
Somalia a relatively safer location for foreign fighter 
training camps, at this point, al-Qa,ida,s efforts to 
&shift8 focus towards Somalia appear to have consisted 
primarily of the aforementioned publicity campaign. There is 
some indication that vigorous effort by the U.S. and the 
Kenyans may have disrupted efforts by al-Qa'ida and the 
al-Shabaab to work more closely together. Even as a degree of 
increased stability in Iraq, and military pressure in 
Afghanistan may have encouraged a small number of foreign 
fighters to choose Somalia as an alternate venue for jihad, 
we lack evidence of significant numbers of fighters 
previously engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan diverting to 
Somalia. Likewise, while there are widespread reports of 
Pakistani and Arab fighters in Somalia, the timing and influx 
of these fighters appear primarily tied to developments in 
Somalia and perceptions of Somalia as a suitable location for 

NAIROBI 00001801 003 OF 003 


jihad. Nevertheless, al-Qa,ida operatives coordinate with 
al-Shabaab,s core leaders, and continue to use Somalia as a 
staging and training base. 
RANNEBERGER