Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Conversation about U.S. policy toward Somalia

I had an email exchange with someone researching Somalia today, and I thought the discussion might benefit readers of this blog. I have withheld the person's name and just posted the conversation as questions and answers: Q: If nation building is not an option, to what capacity can or should the United States get involved without further tarnishing its reputation in the area and antagonizing the Somali people? A: Nation building is an option in the long term, but not the short term. Until it is a viable option, the United States should continue to provide humanitarian assistance that is distributed by international organizations like the World Food Program and NGOs and quietly support the new Somali government of national unity. Together with other members of the international community, the United States should identify ways that it can help this government establish a police force and eventually a national military force. The United States should be prepared to step in quickly with development assistance as soon as the security situation allows. Q: If the United States is already seen as a collaborator with Ethiopia, who should be the "face" of Somali reconstruction? A: The face of Somali reconstruction should be the Somalis themselves supported by either the UN or a coalition of donor countries who are willing to help fund the reconstruction effort. Somalia's neighbors should remain on the sidelines politically but take steps as appropriate to support the establishment of a moderate Somali government. Q: What alternative policy can the United States adopt to secure its interests in the region? A: I don't see an alternative U.S. policy, but one that supplements the policy suggested above. The United States should continue to maintain good relations with Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti and explore ways to improve relations with Sudan and Eritrea. The goal is to encourage all of these countries, in addition to the African Union and Arab League, to play a constructive role in Somalia. The United States should deal with Somalia in collaboration with other interested countries so that responsibility for Somalia is an international responsibility, not an American undertaking. The United States should not see Somalia solely in the context of counterterrorism, which it did until early 2008. This approach damaged U.S. goals and interests in the region. Counterterrorism should be only a part of the policy, not the entire policy. The primary goal is to help establish a broad-based Somali government that is friendly with the United States and has tolerably good relations with all countries in the region. Image: http://www.wfp.org/.


  1. Obama needs to calm things down between Eritrea and Ethiopia, by arm twisting Ethiopia to abide by the international rule of law it signed. With out fixing the border issue, I can't see Eritrea playing ball. Aweys is already back in Asmara abandoning the negotiations in Sudan.


  2. Hearing before the Subcommittee on African Affairs
    The Committee on Foreign Relations
    United States Senate
    February 6, 2007

    Exploring a Comprehensive Stabilization, Reconstruction,
    and Counter-terrorism Strategy for Somalia
    by David H. Shinn
    Adjunct Professor
    Elliott School of International Affairs
    The George Washington University
    Former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and
    State Department coordinator for Somalia

    "Eritrea strongly supported the Islamic Courts, primarily because the Courts posed the biggest threat to Eritrea's enemy, Ethiopia. In fact, Eritrea sent an undetermined number of military personnel to train and support members of the Islamic Court militias. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia placed the number of Eritrean military personnel in Somalia last fall at 2,000. This figure appears to be exaggerated; a couple of hundred is probably closer to the actual figure. Eritrea also provided substantial quantities of military equipment to the Courts. Even today, there are unconfirmed reports that Eritrea continues to support remnants of the Islamic Court militias".

    Ambasador Shinn, what do you think about the above statement. Do you stand by the statements you made? Did the statement mislead the U.S. government policy to Horn of Africa?
    Can you think admitting making a mistake with such fabricated facts by U.N.? or ignor it and move on to the next topic 'Somali Pirates'? Who must accept the responsibilities, for a seventeen year old pirates, who was concived in the middle of violence, lived in his mother's woumb for nine months as she run from place to place as a refufgee in her own land, born in darkness in vioence greeted with the sound of gunfire to the world the night he was born, grow up in middle of daily violence, the only toy he has seen around AK 47, unable to go to school,until he reached young adulthood. As an ilitrate person the only alternative job available to join the militia of your clan warlord, or cross the sea to foreign lands in a crowded primitive boat and if unlucky to reach the shores, sink to the bottom of the sea or join a gang that chases merchant ships for ransom money at the risk of loosing your life in the high sea or capture by one of the navy of rich nations, go to jail for life. Is this justice? who else should stand in court for the crime of this teenager? Ambasador Shinn, as scholar please answer to some of the above questions, if by some unfortunate circumstance if you had the fate of the somali boy what would you do to survive?

  3. Anonymous has claimed that the UN Mission Fabricated Facts regarding Eritrean Support for Islamist Militias in Somalia. Does that person have any facts to disprove that claim?

    The Solution to End the Piracy in the Gulf of Aden is in Somalia itself. The UIC did rein in the activities of the Pirates before they were dislodged by Ethiopia.

    Maybe if a UN Backed Government was more Inclusive of Somalis and had a much larger Power Base that just a few City Blocks in Mogadishu then their might be some hope for Somalia.