Repeating Prior Mistakes in Somalia

By Scott A Morgan
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In May 2010 the United States will once again launch an effort to train elements of the Armed Forces of the Transitional National Government in Somalia. Hopefully this effort will yield better results than previous efforts.

In late April the Associated Press reported that some of the soldiers that have been trained by the United States and the UN have defected from the Government due to lack of pay. Some of those who have defected have reportedly gone over to Al-Shaabab the main Islamist Militia that controls a good part of Puntland.

If the AP report regarding the defections is verified than there are several key questions that need to be answered. First why can't the TNG in Mogadishu pay its bills? We hear quite often about how the current Somali Government needs the Military support of the US and other western powers to defeat the Islamists from gaining control of a vital Shipping Lane in International Commerce. Why don't we hear more calls for the International Community to provide financial assistance as well?

Another area of concern that is raised by this report is the fact that another Policy Initiative by the United States Government has gone askew. Since George H.W. Bush sent in the Marines to distribute food in the country after the Fall of the Siad Barre regime Somalia has been a thorn in the African Policy of the three Administrations that followed him. From the Day of the Rangers that haunted Clinton to the George W. Bush policy of using Ethiopia to conduct US Policy by proxy some of the actions taken by Washington have proven to be failures or embarrassing.

The situation in Somalia will have an affect on not only the Policy towards Ethiopia and Yemen but also Kenya as well. Later this month there will be Parliamentary Elections in Ethiopia. Hopefully there will not be a reprisal of the violence that took place after the 2005 Elections. Kenya is also in close proximity and could be one of the first targets if Al-Shaabab actually decides to follow through on their threats and actually decides to strike. There is one factor that very few people are willing to discuss. The Islamist Militias have proven very adept at reigning in the Somali Pirates in areas that they control.

The situation in Yemen is now proving to be a Wild Card in this situation. There have been reports of fighters moving between Somalia and Yemen as Militants fight an insurgency against the Yemeni Government. So what can the US actually do to effect a stable secure Somalia?

In late 2009 there was great fanfare as the US announced that it was deploying UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to the Indian Ocean. What is their status at this time? Are they being used to monitor Pirates or have they been deployed to the AF/PAK region as the US assists both the Afgan and Pakistani Governments deal with Islamist insurgencies.

Why aren't there any reports of Financial Aid going to the TNG? The main reason for the defections from the TNG was that the Soldiers were not being Paid. The Militants have been preventing Aid workers from distributing food and have gone so far as to control information that has been broadcast from Somali Radio Stations. So maybe a Radio Station such as Radio Liberty can be set up as well.

Another Idea which you may not hear from Official Washington may be to recognize the Independence of Somaliland. The UN and some aspects of the National Security Apparatus of the US already deal with them in an Observer or consultancy basis. So this may be an alternative that should be looked into. These are just some suggestions for those inside the beltway.

The Author Publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and comments on US Policy towards Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at confusedeagle.livejournal.com