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Somalia: Still Hope for Peace?

As the violence in Somalia escalates, is there any hope for peace? The Transitional federal Government (TFG) continues to battle militias, the most powerful of which is al-Shabaab.

Thursday al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Beledweyne, killing Somalia's security minister, among others.

David Shinn, adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and former US ambassador to Ethiopia, is watching developments in Somalia.

"If al-Shabaab, in fact, carried this attack out…it indicates that they're increasingly using these terrorist tactics of political assassination and car bombings," he says.

More foreign fighters reported in Somalia

"These are not traditional Somali tactics at all. But they do suggest that it's the work or the training of persons coming from other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East and South Asia,' he says.

Shinn and others have long called for a Somali solution to the problems in the country. But with the ongoing conflict, is that still possible.

"I still hold to that. It's difficult though because you find the Somalis themselves fighting something of a asymmetrical kind of warfare, where one group, which is using terrorist tactics, has something of an advantage, at least over the short term, because these tactics are obviously very effective," he says.

Long-term use of terror may backfire

"Over the longer term, though, what these tactics do is to alienate Somalis…. I think it already has happened to some extent. I don't think Somalis generally approve of this kind of approach and it's going to make the short-term successes of groups like al-Shabaab perhaps pyrrhic victories," he says.

Pyrrhic victories refers to King Pyrrhus of Epirus (now southeastern Europe), who defeated Roman armies around 280 BC, but at very great cost to his own forces.

The continuing violence creates problems for international efforts to help bring peace and assistance.

"I would hope the international community would step up both the training and the equipping of security forces for the Transitional Federal Government. And this is tricky because you have to have loyal followers in order to do the training and equipping. Otherwise, you'll end up training a lot of folks who are not sure whose side they're on," Shinn says.

Somalis should do the job

"I just don't see the purpose of having a very large foreign presence, a military presence, in the country, either in the form of the African Union forces of United Nations' forces. I think that creates so much resentment," he says.