Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
on your Newsreader!
Print this page
USA/Somalia: Engage or Disengage?
Mar 30 2010 (100330)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
With continuing conflict in Mogadishu, and reports of a forthcoming
Transitional Federal Government offensive to gain control of areas
of the city now controlled by Al-Shabaab rebels, debate about the
extent of U.S. involvement intensified this month. Assistant
Secretary of State Johnnie Carson held a press conference to refute
media reports of direct U.S. involvement in the anticipated
offensive, and a Council on Foreign Relations report called for
The reports of direct involvement likely stemmed from Somali and U.S. sources anxious to
gain greater U.S. involvement than the "limited" capacity-building
assistance officially authorized and advocated by Africa-focused
officials. Whether U.S. attacks on suspected Al-Qaeda-linked
targets in Somalia, such as that in September 2009, take place
again or not, is likely to be decided by officials not focused on
Africa and on considerations unrelated to the fate of the
government in Mogadishu.
More significantly, the outcome of such an offensive is likely less
significant than other factors. Speaking at a Consultative Needs
Assessment Workshop for the Somalia TFG organized by African Union
Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Kampala, Uganda's UPDF Commander of
Land Forces, Lt. Gen Katumba Wamala said Somalis are likely to lose
confidence on TFG if the services are not improved. "The problem of
Somalia cannot be solved by having thousands of guns in Mogadishu.
We need a holistic approach to this conflict. People need water,
they need drugs, and those in the camps need food," he said.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin, available on the web but not sent out by
e-mail, contains (1) the transcript of a March 12 press conference
on U.S. policy in Somalia, with Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs and Ertharin Cousin, U.S. Ambassador
to the UN Mission in Rome, and (2) a press release on a new report
from the Council on Foreign Relations, advocating what analyst
Bronwyn Bruton calls "constructive disengagement"
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out today by e-mail and
available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/som1003a.php),
contains excerpts from a new report from Conciliation Resources
highlighting "Somali-led peace processes" Also released today, and
available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs10/som1003c.php, is a
bulletin containing excerpts from the latest report from the UN
Monitoring Group on Somalia.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Africa: U.S. Policy in Somalia
12 Mar 2010
U.S. Policy in Somalia
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Ertharin Cousin, Ambassador to the UN Mission in Rome
MR. DUGUID: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the
State Department. We are here for a special briefing by Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, who is our ambassador to the World Food
Program in Rome, who joins us from Rome. They will speak to you
today about U.S. policy on Somalia.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Gordon, thank you very, very much. Thank you all
for coming today. I want to take this opportunity to address a
number of press reports over the past week characterizing our
policy in Somalia, specifically regarding our assistance to the
Transitional Federal Government. These reports have not accurately
reflected or portrayed our policy position and what we are doing in
that country. Today, I will take a few moments to set the record
straight and to place our policy in proper context.
U.S. policy in Somalia is guided by our support for the Djibouti
peace process. The Djibouti peace process is an African-led
initiative which enjoys the support of IGAD, the Intergovernmental
Authority on Development. It also enjoys the support of the African
Union and the key states in the region. The Djibouti peace process
has also been supported by the United Nations, the European
Community, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic
Conference. The Djibouti peace process recognizes the importance of
trying to put together an inclusive Somali government and takes
into account the importance of the history, culture, clan, and
sub-clan relations that have driven the conflict in Somalia for the
past 20 years.
The Transitional Federal Government, led by President Sheikh Sharif
Ahmed, builds on the progress made during the establishment of the
Djibouti peace process. However, extremist elements such as
al-Shabaab have been - have chosen to reject the peace process and
have waged a violent campaign against the TFG and the people of
Somalia in order to impose their own vision for the future in that
The United States and the international community, the UN, the AU,
and our European allies, among others, have chosen to stand with
those seeking an inclusive, peaceful Somalia. We have provided
limited military support to the Transitional Federal Government. We
do so in the firm belief that the TFG seeks to end the violence in
Somalia that is caused by al-Shabaab and other extremist
However, the United States does not plan, does not direct, and does
not coordinate the military operations of the TFG, and we have not
and will not be providing direct support for any potential military
offensives. Further, we are not providing nor paying for military
advisors for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the
conflict in Somalia.
We are also aware of the reporting on the Somali - of the Somalia
Monitoring Group's concerns about the diversion of food and
assistance in Somalia. The State Department has received the draft
report and we are reviewing it carefully. I will not comment on
that report because we have a representative from our Bureau of
International Organizations who can answer those questions. But we
are concerned about the troubling allegations that are contained in
The Somali people have suffered tremendously throughout more than
20 years of conflict, and Somalia's turmoil destabilizes not only
that country, but the region and also some aspects of the
international community. The U.S. recognizes that any long-term
solution to the crisis in Somalia must be an inclusive political
solution. We continue to call upon all those who seek peace in
Somalia to reject terrorism and violence, and to participate in the
hard work of stabilizing the country for the benefit of Somalia's
I'd now like to recognize and ask Ambassador Cousin, who is in
Rome, whether she would like to add her comments. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR COUSIN: Thank you very much, Ambassador Carson. I'd also
like to thank the members of the press for your presence and
interest in covering these important issues related to Somalia. As
Johnnie Carson stated, the Somali people have suffered tremendously
during the more than 20 years of conflict in their country.
The Somalia Monitoring Group, more commonly known as the SMG,
submitted their report to the UN Security Council Sanctions
Committee this past week. This SMG report - the SMG reports
directly to the Security Council on implementation of the Somalia
and Eritrea sanctions regimes. We take the work of the Somalia
Monitoring Group very seriously and we are studying its
Next week, the Security Council will meet and receive the regular
120-day report from the Chair of the Somalia Sanctions Committee
that will include a briefing on the committee's discussion of the
SMG's final report. The Somalia Monitoring Group report contains a
number of recommendations, including those regarding the work of
the World Food Program in Somalia. We at the U.S. Mission to the UN
agencies in Rome are active members of the executive board of the
World Food Program. This board regularly examines the work of the
World Food Program and the perils its dedicated staff face around
the world, particularly in places like Somalia.
In December of 2009, the World Food Program presented a briefing on
the - its Somalia program to the World Food Program executive
board. After the December board meeting, WFP did take internal
measures to address the concerns raised in this internal report.
Some of the same types of allegations were raised in the Somalia
Monitoring Group's report. So this morning, the executive board
recognized that regardless of the process mandated by the SMG, the
board has a responsibility for oversight and governance of the WFP
operations. Consensus was reached by the board to ensure that all
practices of the WFP in - WFP team in Somalia are in line with the
organization's policies and procedures.
We will continue to work to ensure that the generous contributions
of the American people to support the work of the World Food
Program are managed in an accountable and transparent manner. We
express our gratitude to the WFP staff for their commitment to meet
humanitarian needs in the most difficult of circumstances. The
United States remains strongly committed to meeting the
humanitarian needs of the people of Somalia. We continue to seek
ways to ensure that the Somalian people receive the assistance they
I'll end here, Assistant Secretary, and look forward to any
questions from the media. Thank you.
MR. DUGUID: Before we get to the questions, I would like to make a
correction for the record. I described Ambassador Cousin's - one of
her official duties rather than her official title, which is -
Ambassador to U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome is her
official working title.
As we call on you, please identify yourself and which ambassador
you would like to speak to.
QUESTION: Matt Lee with AP. Ambassador Carson, you mentioned at the
very top - you were talking about a number of recent press reports.
Can you be specific about what these reports said? I'm not asking
you to identify whatever organization they were responsible. But
what did they say? And what is wrong - what was wrong with them?
Secondly, you said that the Djibouti process was supported by IGAD,
the AU, and all the countries of the region. But that's not
entirely true, is it? I mean, there is one country that doesn't
support it. Or has Eritrea changed their position? And then -those
two very briefly - but then on the military aid that you talked
about the several tons of weapons that have been provided to the
TFG. Are there any concerns that those weapons may be leaking out
in the same way that the food aid was described as leaking out to
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let me say, the most prominent article was one
that appeared approximately a week ago in The New York Times,
written by Jeff Gettleman, and I think co-authored by one of his
colleagues, which asserted or carried the assertion that the U.S.
Government had military advisors assisting and aiding the TFG, that
the U.S. Government was, in fact, helping to coordinate the
strategic offensive that is apparently underway now, or may be
underway now, in Mogadishu, and that we were, in effect, guiding
the hand and the operations of the TFG military. All of those are
incorrect. All of those do not reflect the accuracy of our policy,
and all of those need to be refuted very strongly. I think my
statement clearly outlined what we are doing and why we are doing
You indicated that one state in the region has not joined in, and
that is absolutely true; that is Eritrea. But Eritrea, in fact,
stands alone. What my statement said was that all key states in the
region, all the important states in the region - and I would
include among them Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other members of
QUESTION: You're not planning to meet up with President Isaias
anytime soon, are you?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Whenever an opportunity presents itself to
engage President Isaias in a conversation that will lead to peace
and a cessation of Eritrean support for spoilers in the region, I
will do so.
With respect to military weapons, we try as best we possibly can to
ensure through a number of mechanisms that any assistance, any
assistance that we give to the TFG, directly or indirectly, is
accounted for and audited through mechanisms that we believe are
QUESTION: Are you aware of any concerns that weapons have - may
have gone to insurgents?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: There are allegations out there. But let me say
that because of two decades of conflict and instability in Somalia,
the country is awash with arms and, in fact, is an international
arms bazaar. Weapons can be acquired very easily on the black
market and they can be sold very easily on the black market. We
undertake, through a number of mechanisms, including one that we
have intentionally put in place to monitor any support that we
give, to ensure that every possible effort is maintained over the
handling of any assistance we provide.
QUESTION: Andrew Quinn from Reuters. I have one question for
Ambassador Cousin. I was hoping you could talk a little bit more
about what the practical results will be of this consensus you
spoke of with regards to the WFP activity in Somalia and the U.S.
role in providing some of the food aid there. Is that going to - if
it's stopped, is it going to resume? What happens now?
And for Ambassador Carson, I was wondering - and you're talking
about the inclusive - hoping for an inclusive resolution of the
situation. Do you - does the U.S. foresee or encourage a sort of
Afghanistan-style reintegration effort, reaching out to members of
al-Shabaab and so on to bring them perhaps back on board with the
TFG or other sort of more centrist elements?
And secondly, what does - does the U.S. have a position on the AU's
calls for UN peacekeepers in Somalia? Where do we stand on that
MR. DUGUID: Ambassador Cousin first. Ambassador Cousin, please.
AMBASSADOR COUSIN: Thank you. The board will continue to work with
WFP to ensure that all the policies and procedures of WFP are
followed in Somalia, just as they are in other countries where WFP
partners with the U.S. and other countries in the delivery of food
assistance. We, the United States, as well as the board continue to
be committed to supporting the food security needs of the people of
MR. DUGUID: Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: On the issue of inclusiveness, we believe that
the long-term solution for Somalia's conflict is to be found in a
political reconciliation. We believe that it is important for the
TFG to reach out to broaden its base as much as possible, to bring
in as many clan and sub-clan groups as possible, to include among
its rank other moderate Islamist groups and Somalis who were not a
part of that group. I would think that any moderate Islamists who
are seeking peace, who are denouncing al-Shabaab, and who want to
be a part of a peace process should, in fact, be considered for
inclusion in a TFG government.
With respect to the call by the AU for a UN peacekeeping force in
Somalia, I think that it is important at this point that AMISOM do
the job that it has committed itself to do, that more African
countries step up to participate in the AMISOM force, along with
the Ugandan, Burundian, and Djiboutian troops who are already on
the ground. The force was - for AMISOM was originally supposed
to be 8,000 men. It is only slightly over 5,000. We hope other
African nations will come forward to make contributions to the
effort in Somalia.
The Africans, as I've indicated, have recognized the importance of
stabilizing that country. This has been recognized in IGAD, in AU
resolutions, and the commitment by African countries themselves to
put troops on the ground. This is essentially an African effort, an
African-led effort that does deserve the support of the
international community. But it is important that AMISOM do the
primary work of trying to establish peace in that country.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you. We'll go back to the third row, then we'll
come back to the second row. Yes, please, sir.
QUESTION: I have three small questions. The first one is: I know
you stated very clearly that United States is not coordinating or
involving any impending military offensive by the TFG. But has the
TFG requested any military assistance, specifically aerials and
military strikes, from the United States Government? And if so,
what was your response or your reply to them?
And the other question is: Have there been any military advisors
from the United States Government or any sort of covert military
presence in Somalia, in Mogadishu during the past few months?
Because in Mogadishu, the talk is that there is a very strong
feeling that there are some sorts of military advisors from the
United States Government in Mogadishu. So can you confirm whether
there has been any visit, any sort of visit from the United States
Government, military advisors to Somalia?
And the third and final question: As you said, you do not want to
Americanize the Somali TFG military operations. But in September
2009, we know that an operation by the United States Government
killed one of the al-Qaida leaders in East Africa in Somalia. So
how does these two arguments go along?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Let me respond to all three questions. I have
not, in my office, received any formal or informal request from the
TFG for airstrikes or operations in support of the offensive that
may be underway right now. I have seen newspaper comments of TFG
leaders responding to questions that have been posed to them about
whether they would be willing to accept outside support. But we
have not received any, I have not received any, my office has not
received any requests for airstrikes or air support or people on
the ground to assist the TFG in its operations. The TFG military
operations are the responsibilities of the TFG government.
I will reiterate what I said in my statement: We do not have any
American U.S. military advisors on the ground assisting the TFG in
its operations. It should be very clear: We do not have any
American U.S. military advisors on the ground. We are not planning,
coordinating any of the TFG's military operations. It is for the
TFG leadership to determine how its military operates on the
Finally, the issue of Americanization of this. This is not an
American conflict. This is a conflict among Somalis that Africans
and members of the international community recognize as being
extremely important for Somalia, for the region, and for the
international community. It will be up to the Somalis to ultimately
resolve this conflict. The U.S., along with others in the
international community, can contribute in a supporting role, which
we do and acknowledge, but not to become directly engaged in any of
the conflict on the ground there.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, the Somali Government itself
is saying that the conflict is not a Somali conflict anymore; there
is the clear affiliation by al-Shabaab with al-Qaida on the other
and U.S. military operation last year in the south of Somalia. And
in 2000, there were at least three other airstrikes. So it's not a
Somali conflict anymore. Your take on that?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: That is a misreading of Somalia's history, its
culture, and its long period of internecine conflict inside the
country, as well as in the region itself. Somalia has been torn
apart by internal strife for more than two decades. That two
decades supersedes many of the terrorist activities and events that
you would like to associate with Somalia.
Somalia's problems are the result and absence of a central
government, constant tensions between various regions among the
five major clans and many sub-clans that exist. There are indeed
individuals who have more recently come in from outside of the
country to take advantage of some of the chaos and disorganization
that exists there, but Somalia's problems are to be resolved by
Somalis by recognizing the reasons and causes of the conflict in
their own country. Somalia's people have to work together to bring
peace to their country.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you. As our time is limited, let's try and limit
the follow-ons, please. Yes.
QUESTION: Catherine Herridge of Fox News. How would - Ambassador,
how would you characterize the relationship between al-Shabaab,
which appears to be growing bolder every day, and al-Qaida in
Yemen, and what that will mean for the United States?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: There is no question that some individuals,
mostly in the senior leadership of al-Shabaab, are affiliated
either directly or indirectly with international terrorist groups.
Some would like to be even more affiliated. But it is important to
recognize that al-Shabaab, which no doubt is carrying out many
terrorist activities in that country, is not a homogeneous,
monolithic, or - group that is comprised of individuals who
completely share the same political philosophy from top to bottom.
QUESTION: But just to follow up on that, because certainly, what
the - it's not an American problem. I understand what you're saying
there. But certainly, there are very significant American interests
involved, given that al-Shabaab is actively recruiting Americans of
Somali descent in this country to train in the camps there. And
just this week, al-Shabaab has said that it's not afraid of any
American intervention in that country.
AMBASSADOR CARSON: The young Somalis who were recruited in this
country to go back to Somalia to fight went back to fight against
the Ethiopian incursion that occurred in that country. They did not
go back to protest or to fight against the - any kind of a U.S.
policy in that country. And it's very clear that they went back for
Somali nationalistic reasons. They went back to fight Ethiopians
QUESTION: But we were backing the Ethiopians. Was the U.S. not
backing the -
AMBASSADOR CARSON: They went back to fight against Ethiopians. The
United States was not in Somalia.
MR. DUGUID: Charlie.
QUESTION: Ambassador Carson, Charlie Wolfson from CBS. Can you just
give us a dollar figure here of how much aid? And maybe to the
ambassador in Rome, Cousin - Ambassador Cousin, how much money is
the U.S. giving for this effort either on the food side or totally?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: I'll let Ambassador Cousin speak to the food
issue. But with respect to U.S. support for AMISOM, the United
States, as a member of the Contact Group and as a member of the
international community, has provided something in the neighborhood
of $185 million over the last 18 or 19 months. And that is in
support of the AMISOM peacekeeping effort - Uganda, primarily, but
Burundi and Djibouti as well. Funding going to the TFG from the
United States has been substantially smaller, and that number is
approximately $12 million over the last fiscal year. So the
amounts of money that we are talking about are really relatively
I'll let Ambassador Cousin speak to the food issue.
AMBASSADOR COUSIN: Thank you. Our food aid, our food assistance
budget for Somalia is approximately $150 million. But at this time,
the WFP is not operating in the southern region of Somalia, and our
operational and food aid support to Somalia is limited to the
northern region of Somalia only.
MR. DUGUID: Charley, then David. And I think that's about all we'll
have time for. Charley.
QUESTION: Please, sir. Charley Keyes of CNN. You've spoken several
times about what U.S. military assistance is not, but can you be
any more specific about what U.S. military assistance to Somalia
AMBASSADOR CARSON: Well, let me just say the United States
Government in support of AMISOM, largely through programs run by
the Department of State, has, in fact, provided assistance to
AMISOM. We have supported the acquisition of non-lethal equipment
to the Governments of Burundi and to Uganda, in particular. We have
provided them with military equipment, and this ranges every - from
everything from communications gear to uniforms.
We have supported the training of TFG forces outside of Somalia,
mostly in Uganda but also in Djibouti. We have paid for the
transportation of the troops back from their training places abroad
into the country. We have also paid for specialized training given
by Ugandans to the Djiboutians to deal with such things as
improvised explosive devices, training for the protection of ports
and airports. But this has been done by the Ugandans, not by any
U.S. Government military officials.
So those are some of the things. And everything that we have done,
we have reported, as required, to the UN Sanctions Committee.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you. David, final question.
QUESTION: Dave Gollust from Voice of America. You keep reading that
the transitional government, like, controls a matter of blocks in
Mogadishu, that it's very weak, it's very threatened. What is your
take on its survivability?
AMBASSADOR CARSON: I think the TFG has demonstrated in an enormous
capacity to survive. When Sheikh Sharif took office as the head of
the TFG approximately 16 months ago, there were individuals who
predicted that his government would fall within a matter of months
and that he would not be able to reside and govern from Mogadishu.
That has not been true. Almost a year ago, in May of last year,
al-Shabaab mounted an enormously large offensive designed to break
the back of the TFG and the will of AMISOM. They failed to do so.
The fact that the TFG remains standing is a reflection of its
resolve and the commitment of its leaders to stand up against
al-Shabaab. And they are demonstrating their capacity to do so on
a daily basis.
There is no doubt that the TFG is still fighting very hard to
regain control over most of Mogadishu. Reports that it controls
only three, four, or five city blocks are erroneous. What the TFG
does control is the main port of Mogadishu, the two main airports,
and all of the central government buildings. It has clear control
over a third of the city. And probably two-thirds of the city, some
of which is controlled by al-Shabaab, remains largely contested
territory. We hope that as the TFG builds up its military forces,
that it will be able to provide more security, exert more control
over the city, and demonstrate its capacity to protect the citizens
of the country. We also hope that it will also be more inclusive,
reach out to other clans and sub-clans, and to expand its political
influence, and also to be able deliver services.
But again, I want to emphasize, these are the responsibilities of
the TFG. This is a Somali problem primarily that has affected the
region and, to a certain extent, the international community. The
United States believes that the Somalis and Africans should not -
should, in fact, remain in the lead. This is not an American
problem and we do not seek to Americanize the conflict there.
MR. DUGUID: Assistant Secretary Carson, thank you. Ambassador
Cousin, thank you very much for appearing with us today.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. That concludes today's briefing.
Please stand by for the regular daily press briefing, which should
# # #
 Djiboutian troops are not on the ground in Mogadishu as of yet.
They have not deployed, and may not until January 2011. AMISOM
still consists entirely of Ugandan and Burundian troops.
 $185M is our cumulative support since 2007.
 $12M in in-kind support and $2M in direct cash support to the
United States Should Pursue New Approach to Somalia, Argues CFR
March 10, 2010
Council on Foreign Relations
For the full text of the report, visit:
As the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) prepares to
launch a major offensive against the Islamist opposition group, the
Shabaab, a new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Special Report
warns that the "odds of the TFG emerging as an effective body are
extremely poor." The author of the report, Bronwyn Bruton, a
2008-2009 CFR international affairs fellow, asserts that current
U.S. policy, which provides limited, indirect diplomatic and
military support to the weak TFG, has only "served to isolate the
government, and...to propel cooperation among previously fractured
and quarrelsome extremist groups." The report calls on the United
States to make a final attempt to help the Somali government build
public support by drawing in leaders of the principal Islamist
groups, but urges the Obama administration to consider policy
options should the TFG fail or continue to be marginalized to the
point of powerlessness.
The report, Somalia: A New Approach, provides a recent political
history of Somalia, which "has been a failed state for the better
part of two decades; bereft of central government, cantonized into
clan fiefdoms, and wracked by deadly spasms of violence." Repeated
attempts by the international community to establish a viable
national government have failed. The creation of the UN-brokered
TFG in 2004 "produced a violent counterreaction in Mogadishu, where
a radical youth militia group--the Shabaab--developed and began
assassinating TFG members and supporters." Because it is perceived
to be a foreign-controlled authority, the Somali government has
never gained legitimacy among the local population and is unable to
improve security, provide basic services, or move toward an
agreement with clans and opposition forces that would provide a
stronger basis for governance.
Bruton analyzes U.S. interests in Somalia, including piracy,
humanitarian issues, and broader regional stability, and identifies
terrorism as the principal threat since 9/11. She argues that "to
date, however, there is no clear evidence of Somalia being used by
al-Qaeda or other transnational terrorist groups as an operational
platform to carry out attacks beyond its borders. And while the
Shabaab has expressed a rhetorical commitment to al-Qaeda and has
been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United
States, there is little to indicate that the group shares
al-Qaeda's larger transnational goals."
Bruton maintains that the current U.S. approach is
counterproductive, alienating large parts of the Somali population
and polarizing its diverse Muslim community. "The Shabaab is an
alliance of convenience and its hold over territory is weaker than
it appears. Somali fundamentalists--whose ambitions are mostly
local--are likely to break ranks with al-Qaeda and other foreign
operatives as the utility of cooperation diminishes. The United
States and its allies must encourage these fissures to expand."
The report, sponsored by CFR's Center for Preventive Action, says
that "U.S. policy options for Somalia are typically reduced to
three alternative courses of action: continuation of current
policy, increased military intervention for stabilization and
reconstruction, and an offshore counterterrorist containment
strategy." It concludes that each of these choices suffers from
serious shortcomings, and calls for "constructive disengagement,"
a policy in which the United States would "disengage from any
effort to pick a winner in Somalia." The administration should
"signal a willingness to coexist with any Islamist group or
government that emerges, as long as it refrains from acts of
regional aggression, rejects global jihadi ambitions, and agrees to
tolerate the efforts of Western humanitarian relief agencies in
Specific recommendations for the United States and the
international community include:
- Adopt a population-centered approach to counterterror strategy:
"Future operations in Somalia must be conducted with extreme care
to avoid the civilian casualties that undermine other political and
- Encourage disaggregation of radical movements by adopting a
position of neutrality: "The United States should indicate strong
support for a UN or African Union dialogue with any member of the
armed Islamist opposition that is willing to talk... U.S. officials
must assume an inclusive posture toward local fundamentalists yet
indicate a zero-tolerance policy toward transnational actors
attempting to exploit Somalia's conflict."
- Pursue development without regard to governance: "Until there is
meaningful political reconciliation between the clans, attempts to
construct governance arrangements will be a recipe for
conflict...New development initiatives should be pursued in a
decentralized fashion that involves collaboration with the informal
and traditional authorities that are already in place on the
ground." This approach has "the potential to rapidly separate
pragmatic, locally-oriented fundamentalists from their
international jihadi counterparts."
- Increase diplomatic efforts to engage regional and international
partners: "The United States does not want to own the Somali
crisis, and it must lead a robust diplomatic effort to harness
European and Middle Eastern assistance to support stabilization of
the conflict and to address Somalia's extensive humanitarian and
development needs." Cooperation with Middle Eastern partners would
also help to combat the perception of U.S. hostility to Islam.
- Restrain Ethiopia: During the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia
from 2006-2009, "Mogadishu was reduced to a level of human
suffering, violence, and disorder unknown since the civil war." The
potential escalation of the long-standing conflict between Ethiopia
and Eritrea also poses the greatest risk to broader regional
stability. Washington should be prepared to dissuade Ethiopia from
reinvading Somalia should the Shabaab capture Mogadishu. As
anti-U.S. sentiment in the region is linked to the perception of
U.S. complicity with Ethiopian human rights abuses, the United
States should also urge the Ethiopian government to cease such
abuses, implement democratic reforms, and resolve its border
dispute with Eritrea.
- Resist politicizing the piracy problem: The emergence of strong
pirate networks in the central and northeast regions of Somalia has
become a significant threat to the international shipping industry,
and potentially to local stability, but Bruton advises against
"overwhelming use of force, such as the bombing of pirate
strongholds in Hobyuo, Haraardheere, or Eyl," warning that it
"could politicize the piracy issues, which would likely increase
public tolerance of pirate activities."
Bruton concludes that "a strategy of constructive disengagement
entails risk, but the alternatives are far more dangerous. Unless
there is a decisive change in U.S., UN, and regional policy,
ineffective external meddling threatens to prolong and worsen the
conflict, further radicalize the population, and increase the odds
that al-Qaeda and other extremist groups will eventually find a
safe haven in Somalia."
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with
a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see