In 2017, terrorists used under-governed areas throughout Somalia as safe havens to plan, conduct, and facilitate operations, including mass-casualty bombings in major urban areas. Somali officials failed to implement critical national security reforms and pass legislation that could help enhance the government's capacity to secure and govern effectively at all levels.

Despite these critical gaps in its counterterrorism strategy, the Somali government remained a committed partner and vocal advocate for U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Despite facing increased pressure from strikes and other counterterrorism operations, al-Shabaab retained much of its safe haven throughout the country, and, in some cases, regained ceded territory after African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces continued to consolidate positions throughout southern Somalia in 2017. With the notable exception of targeted operations carried out by U.S.-trained and -equipped units of Somali commandos, the Somali National Army, as a whole, remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently. This critical gap allowed al-Shabaab to continue to extort local populations and forcibly recruit fighters, some of whom were children.

In northern Somalia, ISIS-linked fighters used the limited safe haven they established in Puntland to launch a suicide attack against regional security forces in May, killing five and wounding several more. In the months that followed, the group failed to expand its foothold in the face of targeted airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations that commenced in the latter part of 2017, as well as fierce opposition from al-Shabaab cells operating in the region. As if to declare itself the more capable and potent threat in Puntland, al-Shabaab launched an attack against Puntland security forces in Af Urur that killed more than 60 soldiers and civilians.

As seen in previous years, al-Shabaab kept much of its safe haven in the Jubba River Valley as a primary base of operations for plotting and launching attacks throughout Somalia and northern Kenya. The group maintained control of several towns throughout the Jubaland region, including Jilib and Kunyo Barow, and increased its base of operations in the Gedo region to exploit the porous Kenya-Somalia border and attack targets in northeastern Kenya. Al-Shabaab also used its safe havens in Somalia to escalate its campaign in northern Kenya, primarily using buried improvised explosive devices and other explosives against Kenyan security forces and civilian passenger vehicles. The Kenyan government increased its presence throughout the border region, including in the Boni forest area best known as one of al-Shabaab's primary facilitation routes, but security officials continued to struggle with border security and crisis response in the more remote areas of northeastern Kenya.

Somalia remained heavily dependent on regional and international partners to support almost all major security functions throughout the country, making little progress on improving interagency coordination to limit terrorist transit through the country.

According to independent sources and non-governmental organizations engaged in demining activities on the ground, there was little cause for concern for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Somalia.


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