U.S. ROLE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AL-SHABAB?
The United States backed the first African intervention against al-Shabab, supporting Ethopian troops that invaded in 2006. Washington has given millions of dollars to support the U.N.-backed African force fighting al-Shabab, which it designated a foreign terrorist organization in 2008. The intervention from Ethiopia, a longtime enemy of Somalia, is considered to have radicalized al-Shabab and perhaps pushed it into the arms of al-Qaida, according to the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
WHAT INSPIRES THEM?
Al-Shabab is inspired by the Saudi Arabian Wahabi version of Islam though most Somalis belong to the more moderate Sufi strain. While they initially won popularity with Somalis by promising security and stability after years of lawlessness and violence, al-Shabab's destruction of Sufi shrines has cost them much support among locals.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR SOMALIA?
Somalia's first elected government in more than two decades won power a year ago and, together with the African Union force, has the opportunity to create "a window of opportunity to fundamentally change Somalia's trajectory," according to the U.S. State Department. Business is growing and even foreign oil companies are negotiating concessions at the most hopeful moment in decades for that failed state.