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In 2013, possibilities for stability from Somalia to South China Sea

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In Africa, a new dawn for Somalia?

In Somalia, Al Qaeda was on the run in 2012 after four years in control of the country's south, pushed out of all of its major urban strongholds by African Union military offensives.

Somalia's Western allies – also its financiers – have begun proclaiming a new dawn. International commercial flights now land regularly at Mogadishu's refurbished airport. Investors from the large Somali diaspora are returning home. Aid workers have ever-greater access to the millions of people still in grave need.

But analysts are wary. A large number of rank-and-file fighters may have deserted Al Shabab, but hard-line commanders remain. Many of them, trained in Pakistan with Al Qaeda, are regrouping in Somalia's north.

"The Somali government is going to need very quickly to show that it brings dividends, health, education, road repairs, to the population, or they may well turn back to supporting Shabab," one Western diplomat focused on Somalia says in an e-mail. "There is a very narrow window to prove the government is the better option. Probably less than nine months. The early part of 2013 will be crucial."

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