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Somalia's ICU: The New Taliban

Somalia now represents for al-Qaeda a more user-friendly environment with the establishment of the Islamic Courts Union's rule over much of the country at the tip of the Horn of Africa. In The New Taliban, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi chronicle in brief the most recent events in the rise of the ICU, the terrorist training camps that are being created under their care and the coming explosion of terrorism that may well result as al-Qaeda takes root with an eye toward further expansion.

Americans and other Westerners frequently have trouble comprehending why they should care about events occurring half a world away in Africa. One reason we should care is that the ICU's expansion may escalate into interstate warfare.

Ethiopia views the Islamic militia's rise as a matter of great concern, and has expressed its solidarity with Somalia's transitional government. Ethiopian information minister Berhan Hailu has said, "We will use all means at our disposal to crush the Islamist group if they attempt to attack Baidoa."

Ethiopian troops have reportedly been in Somalia since late July. Just as the Ethiopian government has threatened to use military force against the ICU, the ICU has vowed to attack Ethiopian soldiers in Somali territory. Thus far there haven't been any clashes, but both sides are clearly ready to fight. Each seems to be waiting for the other to strike first.

And there is an even more presing reason why Westerners should care about the ICU's rise: the striking similarity between its ascendance in Somalia and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The 'striking similarity' is not a coincidence.