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Alex Thurston
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Blog Entries by Alex Thurston

Will the U.S. Intervene in Somalia?

Posted March 31, 2010 | 13:40:46 (EST)

The stalemate in Somalia seems more intractable than ever. Government-backed protesters march against the Islamist al Shabab militia in the streets of the capital, but the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) also faces protests from local residents. Violence in Somalia continues, but the long-awaited Battle for...

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Rehabilitating Al Qaeda: Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Yemen

Posted February 8, 2010 | 11:17:08 (EST)

How do Arab governments deal with Al Qaeda? Americans should pay attention to Arab counterterrorism strategies, because outcomes there will play a large role in shaping Al Qaeda's trajectory.

Last month, Mauritanian authorities organized a debate between moderate Islamic scholars and imprisoned "Salafists" in Nouakchott.* Aiming to rehabilitate the...

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Terrorism in East Africa: Sudan, Uganda, and the US on Different Pages

Posted January 11, 2010 | 18:19:27 (EST)

Last Friday, the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan cited "a potential threat against commercial aviation transiting between Juba, Sudan and Kampala, Uganda" and said it had "received information indicating a desire by regional extremists to conduct a deadly attack onboard Air Uganda aircraft on this route."

However, the...

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Nigerian Backlash Against US-Mandated Enhanced Airport Screenings

Posted January 7, 2010 | 13:57:50 (EST)

Nigeria, homeland of would-be Christmas Day suicide bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, is included on a list of 14 nations whose air passengers traveling to the US will face enhanced screenings at airports. The new policy, announced by the Obama administration on Sunday, is provoking a backlash from the Nigerian government....

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Africa 2010: 10 Stories to Watch

Posted January 4, 2010 | 14:20:25 (EST)

As we head into a new year, here are ten of the most important stories to watch in Africa.

1. Elections


I debated whether to organize this list by country or by theme, and ultimately went with the latter. But if I had organized it by country, I...

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Yemen, Somalia, and Al Qaeda

Posted December 31, 2009 | 11:34:00 (EST)

The Christmas Day terrorist attempt by a Nigerian national who claims to have received training from Al Qaeda in Yemen has produced cries that the US must "do something about Yemen." But the more we "do" in Yemen, the stronger the chances that we will become more deeply embroiled in...

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A Domino Effect in the Horn of Africa?

Posted September 30, 2009 | 19:40:11 (EST)

Somalia's civil war, pitting the Transitional Federal Government against al Shabab and other Islamist rebel groups, has been destabilizing Kenya and Ethiopia for some time now. Al Shabab recruits fighters from Kenya, and conflict on the Somali-Ethiopian border has provoked Ethiopian military interventions in Somalia even after the 2008...

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Problems of Terminology: Fighters, Rebels, Islamists, Jihadists, Insurgents, Militants?

Posted September 16, 2009 | 11:31:15 (EST)

The other day I started thinking about the language American bloggers use in writing on foreign affairs, particularly regarding combat zones like Afghanistan and Somalia. A Twitter user called me out for using terms like "terrorist attacks" and "insurgency" without making clear distinctions. Am I too glib? If...

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As US Policymakers Question Somalia Framework, Somali President Ahmed Plans PR Tour

Posted September 10, 2009 | 01:37:11 (EST)

Will Somalia's would-be central government survive?

Some American foreign policy experts are losing patience with the current political framework in Somalia. Alexander Noyes and Richard Bennet of the Council on Foreign Relations argue that Washington should cease direct military aid to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, work with regional partners...

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Will We Heed the Wake-Up Call in Africa's Resource Conflicts?

Posted September 4, 2009 | 19:01:14 (EST)

Oxfam's recent pronouncement that refugee camps in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia are "barely fit for humans" has drawn needed attention to the suffering of millions in the Horn of Africa. But westerners must do more than sympathize with Africans. We must seek to understand the causes of their predicaments:...

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