Somalia. In 2015, terrorists used many primarily rural sections of south-central Somalia as safe havens. Terrorists continued to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate with relative ease in these areas due to inadequate security, justice, and governance capacity at all levels.
Al-Shabaab's capacity to rebound from counterterrorism operations is due in large part to its ability to maintain control of large swaths of rural areas and routes in parts of Somalia. In 2015, al-Shabaab lost a number of safe havens in south-central Somalia, many of which provided access to funds and other resources the group extorted from local communities. Despite the success of coordinated African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) operations that drove al-Shabaab from former strongholds in Baardheere and Dinsoor, the terrorist organization managed to establish new safe havens from where it planned and launched attacks against government officials, AMISOM bases, and soft targets in Kenya and other parts of the region. The Federal Government of Somalia and its regional administrations lacked the capacity and resources to fill security voids left in the wake of AMISOM's operations with civilian law enforcement. These gaps allowed al-Shabaab to retain the freedom of movement necessary to establish new safe havens and re-infiltrate areas that AMISOM cleared but could not hold.
As seen in previous years, al-Shabaab used smaller towns in the Jubba River Valley such as Jilib and Saakow as bases for its operations. These areas allowed the group's operatives to continue exploiting the porous border regions between Kenya and Somalia and launch deadly cross-border attacks. Kenya suffered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history when in April, al-Shabaab operatives assaulted the Garissa University College using light arms and suicide vests and killed more than 145 Kenyans, most of whom were students. Al-Shabaab also used villages along major coastal routes in southern Somalia, namely Kunyo Barow and Tortoroow, to facilitate access to areas just outside of major population centers in Mogadishu and Kismaayo. These and other routes throughout southern Somalia serve as lifelines for al-Shabaab as low-level fighters established illegal checkpoints to collect taxes and tolls from locals. Although the group continued to generate funds from the illicit trade of charcoal and other commodities, al-Shabaab leveraged tax collection to compensate for declining revenues after losing access to the port in Baraawe in 2014.
The Federal Government of Somalia remained committed to regional counterterrorism efforts that aim to eliminate al-Shabaab's access to safe haven in Somalia. Though progress on this front was uneven in 2015, these efforts provided the Somali government with enough space and time to focus on the federalism process and advance its political objectives.
According to independent sources and NGOs engaged in demining activities on the ground, there was little cause for concern for the presence of WMD in Somalia.
The Trans-Sahara. There are ungoverned, under-governed, and ill-governed areas of Mali that terrorist groups have used to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security, despite Malian authorities willingness and responsiveness as counterterrorism partners, a UN peacekeeping mission, and French forces in the region. The Malian government has reestablished its political presence in the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, with some local government officials returning to their posts in 2015. The military, in conjunction with the French and UN forces, worked to eliminate terrorist safe havens in Mali.
The Malian government does not support or facilitate the flow of foreign terrorist fighters through its territory, but the lack of government control across large portions of its territory and porous borders makes preventing the flow very difficult.
The Malian government does not support or facilitate the proliferation or trafficking of WMD in and through its territory.