The politics of security assistance in the horn of Africa

William Reno*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This examination of international security assistance to Somalia points to the deficiencies of conventional security assistance strategies to partners in failed states and considers elements of an ad hoc alternative security assistance strategy. The social relationships among that state failure creates undermine the political will and capacity of recipients to utilize security assistance as providers intend. This consideration of developments in Somalia shows how domestic partners act in ways that frustrate efforts to build domestic security institutions. That record is manifest in persistent insurgent activities, even in Somalia’s capital city. The second part of this article explains how pragmatic efforts to fight Somalia’s Al-Shabaab insurgents create the outlines of an alternative security assistance strategy that bypasses elements of Somalia’s formal government structure and opts instead to rely on the creation of parallel security forces. While this strategy addresses a need to meet security objectives in the political environment of a failed state, it elevates tactical proficiency at the expense of strategic aims of conventional security assistance programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)498-513
Number of pages16
JournalDefence Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018


  • Africa
  • Somalia
  • failed states
  • security assistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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