Various media outlets like MSNBC are carrying an AP report that has a number of informed sources saying there is evidence that Islamist militants are filtering into Somalia from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere in southwest Asia. The head of Africa Command, U.S. general William "Kip" Ward, tells AP that, "There is a level of activity that is troubling, disturbing," adding that, "When you have these vast spaces that are just not governed it provides a haven for support activities, for training to occur."
The number of foreign fighters who may now be in East Africa is thought to total just two or three dozen, but their arrival could herald the start of a new facet in the global war on terror. The idea that Somalia could become the new Afghanistan in East Africa, so to speak, has been discussed for some time. However, as the BBC's Rob Watson wrote last May, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two countries, not the least of which is the opposition that many Somalis have to extremist Islamist groups like al-Shabaab, as well as to foreign fighters arriving there.
Nevertheless, al-Shabaab appears willing to work with outsiders, such as al-Qaeda, in order to further their efforts to gain political control over larger parts of Somalia. If the news that foreign fighters are already in the country are true, this certainly adds another layer of complexity to the threats that Somalia poses to us.