BBC Radio asked me to comment on 25 January 2012 concerning the release of the American and Danish hostages from a location in Somalia by the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six, the same organization that attacked Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan last year. The Seals successfuly freed both hostages, who were working for a Danish non-governmental organization.
The BBC was interested if this effort was a "one off" event or the harbinger of more to come from the U.S. military. I responded that it was a "one off" event that occurred because of the failing health of the American hostage. While there have been other U.S. special forces activites in Somalia, notably the killing about two years ago of a senior al-Qaeda operative south of Mogadishu, and there may well be more such engagements in the future, this does not portend significant military action in Somalia by the United States.
In my view, there will not be a military solution to the situation in Somalia. At some point, the Somalis must achieve a political solution and that time does not seem to be close.
The hostage taking of the American and Dane underscores the confusing nature of insecurity in Somalia. They were kidnapped near Galkayo by Somalis linked to pirates in Puntland. Their captors periodically moved them around Puntland. Al-Shabaab was not involved in this kidnapping.
The event should also cause potential kidnappers in Somalia to think long and hard before they capture Americans. It may result in a shortened lifespan for the kidnappers.