Since the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, some have called for a law enforcement response rather than a military one. Monday's U.S. Special Forces raid on Somalia, which killed a suspected terrorist, has raised the issue again.
Dan Volman, director of the African Security Research Project, questions the wisdom of the raid.
"I think it's in some ways a real serious mistake and I think it will undermine a lot of the efforts by the United States and other parties to achieve a peaceful resolution or at least some kind of resolution…in Somalia," he says.
He says the raid indicates "the Obama administration remains committed to the global war on terrorism, which I think is a faulty strategy."
Volman says the raid "stigmatizes" the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), making it appear "as an agent of the United States government." He says that may make it more difficult for the TFG to "reach out and create some kind of broad-based government."
Law enforcement versus military response
"I'm well aware that al-Qaeda is a criminal organization, that it carries out terrible crimes around the world. But I would argue…that al-Qaeda and these kinds of terrorist activities do not directly threaten the vital national security interests of the United States," he says.
Instead, he says, they pose a greater threat to the Somalia and other countries around the world.
"A military response, as opposed to a more focused law enforcement response, is not the right way to go," he says.
Volman says terrorist acts should be treated as "terrible" crimes, not as a "military action. Not as a threat to the vital national security interests of the United States."
Take them to court
"Just to give one example…the United States would like to capture al-Qaeda agents. First of all, they could be put on trial, which means that their guilt can be established…. But also so that they can be questioned…. If you simply kill them you lose any possibility of getting any useful information from them."
Volman considers Somalia an al-Qaeda haven to a "very limited extent," much less so than other countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The TFG is supporting the U.S. raid because it targeted foreigners in the country who it says are killing Somalis.
"People like the al-Qaeda agents and the broader al-Shabaab (militia) movement…not only pose a threat to the Transitional Federal Government, but they pose a real threat to the people of Somalia," he says.
Will it make a difference?
He says death of suspected terrorist Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan "does not fundamentally change either the overall military situation in Somalia or the ability of al-Qaeda and other organizations to carryout terrorist activities in Africa."
A senior administration official is quoted as saying President Obama approved the raid in Somalia after monitoring the situation for several days.
The U.S. Africa Command has said al-Qaeda is operating in Somalia and that its members may try to export terrorism to other countries. It says its mission includes helping to improve security in partner nations.