Somalia remains a powder keg. Since Ethiopian forces withdrew in January 2009, there are ghastly reports of killings and internally displaced populations.
Meanwhile, the al-Shabab Islamic movement, a group on the United States' list of terrorist organisations, has been expanding its sphere of influence and now controls most of southern Somalia.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of Somalia's Islamist organisations with nationalist agendas, al-Shabab's spokesmen have openly stated that while it is not officially a member, it has the same enemies and objectives as al-Qaeda.
However, Somalia's security challenges for the West are not limited to terrorism.
Despite some rescues, piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia remain a problem and last year Somali pirates attacked 111 ships, capturing 42.
Because of this, between $80-$150mn in ransom money was paid to Somali-based pirates last year, in addition to the costs incurred by states in safeguarding the shipping lanes and by companies of insurance premiums.
But there is now a window of opportunity. The time is ripe to build upon some early successes of the African Union forces in Mogadishu, to take advantage of the alliance between moderate Islamists and the transitional government, and to authorise a new UN peacekeeping mission.
In the face of continued violence, the African Union has scored some surprising successes.
Furthermore, the UN special representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who helped stabilise Burundi, has coordinated the UN-sponsored peace process in Djibouti with skill.
He convinced the leadership of the Islamist Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia - including the current president of the country, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed - to negotiate and share power with the government they fought against for two years.
Ould-Abdallah also brought them into the top cabinet positions in a national unity government, along with some leading members of civil society who were not associated with clan-based warlords.
His success in bringing in the moderate factions of the Islamist Alliance demonstrates that the US need not see all Islamist movements as international "jihadists" threatening Western interests, especially among Somalis, who are resistant to all attempts at subjugation.
Source: Al Jazeera (English)