Accession Number:



State Collapse, Insurgency, and Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Somalia

Descriptive Note:

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



For almost a generation, Somalia has been a byword for state failure, defying the combined efforts of diplomats and soldiers to restore some semblance of order, to say nothing of a functional national government. In the absence of an effective sovereign, the country is a backdrop for multiple humanitarian crises, as well as the emergence of an epidemic of maritime piracy that threatened vital sea lanes in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean. Even worse, notwithstanding a military intervention by the army of neighboring Ethiopia and the subsequent deployment of an African Union force operating with a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, al-Shabaab, managed to seize control of most of central and southern Somalia and confined the internationally-recognized government and the peacekeepers protecting it to little more than a few besieged districts in the capital of Mogadishu. Consequently, in the space of months, the tide was turned against the insurgents, and a new Somali authority, appointed in late 2012, presents what appears to be the most promising chance for a permanent government in recent memory. It is not surprising that many policymakers have sought to tease out lessons from the apparent success of the Somali model that might be applicable to similar situations, both in Africa and beyond, where weak governments face Islamist insurgents, including the Sahel, in particular where al- Qaeda-affiliated fighters and their allies have posed severe challenges to embattled governments. In this monograph, however, Dr. J. Peter Pham adopts a different approach. Beginning with a keen appreciation for the intricacies of Somali culture and history, he argues that the key is to understand political legitimacy among the Somali and then examines how both al-Shabaab and the different local polities that have emerged in Somalia have, to varying degrees, acquired it as well as how successive Somali regimes have not.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: