War by proxy: U.S. hiring contractors to battle Somali jihadis

Now Mr. Rouget works for Bancroft Global Development, an American private security company that the State Department has indirectly financed to train African troops who have fought a pitched urban battle in the ruins of this city against the Shabab, the Somali militant group allied with Al Qaeda.

The company plays a vital part in the conflict now raging inside Somalia, a country that has been effectively ungoverned and mired in chaos for years. The fight against the Shabab, a group that United States officials fear could someday carry out strikes against the West, has mostly been outsourced to African soldiers and private companies out of reluctance to send American troops back into a country they hastily exited nearly two decades ago…

The Pentagon has turned to strikes by armed drone aircraft to kill Shabab militants and recently approved $45 million in arms shipments to African troops fighting in Somalia.

But this is a piecemeal approach that many American officials believe will not be enough to suppress the Shabab over the long run. In interviews, more than a dozen current and former United States officials and experts described an overall American strategy in Somalia that has been troubled by a lack of focus and internal battles over the past decade. While the United States has significantly stepped up clandestine operations in Pakistan and Yemen, American officials are deeply worried about Somalia but cannot agree on the risks versus the rewards of escalating military strikes here.