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Editorial: U.S. Missteps in Somalia Benefit Our Enemies

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On December 13, 2018, national-security adviser John Bolton, in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, unveiled the Trump administration’s Africa strategy, key components of which were, first, advancing trade ties to enable allies to thrive, and second, countering “radical Islamic terrorism.”

It is ironic, then, that in the Horn of Africa, the Trump administration now doubles down to do the opposite. As China moves into Djibouti and Ethiopia and as the US-funded government in Mogadishu increasingly offers its strategic assets to China, the State Department has decided to break past precedent and turn its back on Somaliland, the only stable, secure, and truly democratic region in the Horn of Africa, even as Russia seeks to move in on the territory.

More important, however, is that the US State Department is, through either neglect or malpractice, risking a resurgence of radicalism in the Horn of Africa. Most of Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 as warlords and politicians fought over and looted government agencies and foreign aid. Along the Gulf of Aden, however, Somaliland remained stable and has been de facto independent ever since. In effect, Somaliland is to Somalia what Taiwan is to China. In terms of stability, it is what Iraqi Kurdistan is to Iraq, although, unlike Iraqi Kurdistan, it has embraced a more democratic (and less corrupt) order.

Somalia remains a mess. Just as in the run-up to Somalia’s initial collapse, the State Department’s policy seems simply to throw cash at the problem, apparently unaware that flooding failing governments with money exacerbates corruption and hastens collapse. (Perhaps it is time for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the House Oversight Committee to call US ambassador Donald Yamamoto to explain his direction of a policy that has cost US taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.)

While the United States recognizes a Somalia federal government, which in turn claims authority over the entirety of the country, in reality the central Somali government does not control more than a few city blocks in Mogadishu, and even that depends on an African peacekeeping mission that should expire next year. In a worrying development, earlier this month the Somali National Army disintegrated in the face of an al-Shabaab attack on Balad, just 20 miles from the capital. Al-Shabaab also reportedly took Dhanaane, just ten miles south of the capital’s main airport, amid the federal government’s failure to pay its troops. On March 23, an al-Shabaab bombing killed the country’s deputy labor minister and at least nine others in the heart of the capital. Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, commonly known as Farmajo, appears helpless to do anything about Somalia’s spiral into the abyss and now seems more eager to travel outside the country on the international donors’ dime.

The only thing worse than a sinking ship is a conscious decision to tie all lifeboats to it as it goes down. Alas, that seems to be Ambassador Yamamoto’s policy. Unlike previous American diplomats assigned the Somalia file, he has not stepped foot in the region. Security is no excuse: I recently visited Hargeisa, Berbera, and Borama in Somaliland and was able to stay in ordinary hotels and walk around without any security. And not only does Yamamoto refuse to distribute any support to Somaliland to enable it to continue to push back al-Shabaab, but the State Department and the US embassy to Somalia also oppose commonsense military liaisons and communications between AFRICOM (United Stats Africa Command), the Djibouti-based CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa), and Somaliland’s defense ministry and coast guard.

It gets worse. While the United States supports reunification talks between Somalia and Somaliland, it has so far deferred responsibility for them to Turkey. Turkey, however, seems more intent on extracting as much money as possible for projects from Somalia’s corrupt leadership and on fanning the flames of radicalism in Somalia. Some Turkish journalists, for example, have reported that Turkish intelligence officials transferred $600,000 to al-Shabaab in 2012. More recently, the Turkish press has reported that SADAT — basically, an Islamist Blackwater founded by a military adviser of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan — has opened a facility in Somalia and is training Somali radicals. To trust Turkey to put democracy and US national-security interests above Erdogan’s penchant for radical Islamism represents the worst of State Department naïveté or policy inertia.

So what should the United States do to triage Somalia and preserve the American interest in the Horn of Africa?

Transparency in the expenditure of US aid to Somalia is common sense. Given that the embassy represents the United States to all of Somalia, US diplomats should visit all parts of it, including Somaliland, and funds should be expended only in those areas where audits are possible and where politicians can deliver. No US funds should support any entity that then turns around and opens its doors to China. Nor should US money go to the Somali government so long as its president prefers to travel abroad rather than manage the problems in his country.

It will cost the United States nothing to assign a liaison at CJTF-HOA in Djibouti to communicate regularly with Somaliland’s defense forces. With only 1 percent of the current US allocation to Mogadishu, the Somaliland army and coast guard could fund its already successful operations to counter-piracy, deny al-Shabaab space, and stop weapons smuggling.

In addition, given the scale of US assistance to Mogadishu, the State Department (or Pentagon) should take over or join the mediation to unify Somalia or define the relationship between it and Somaliland. Here, the State Department is lucky to have any number of former diplomats whom it can appoint as a special envoy for the purpose. (Peter Pham, an old Africa hand, is currently serving as special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes Region but is intimately familiar with the Horn and perhaps can be dual-hatted.)

One thing is clear, however. For the State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sit back and do nothing will embolden America’s adversaries, waste hundreds of millions of dollars, and enable al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups to expand and perhaps destabilize the remaining oases of security in the Horn of Africa.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/us-missteps-in-somalia-benefit-our-enemies/

 

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Rubin has no credibility on this topic. Is he still fixated on Turkey and Erdogan? 

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He's a lobbyist.  Pay him enough money and he will make 180 and National Review is a right wing publication.

Rubin himself is resident scholar at America Enterprise Institute where board trustrees include Dick Cheney, Paul  Wolfwitz and the current NSA John Bolton. all men who advocated for the perpetual war in the greater middle east. Their main targets were Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, etc. Somalia is in the list which is really odd.

Their biggest foe is Iran. So far, they have been unsuccessful and they rudely awakened that Syria's Bashar survived and won. 

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They used to write off Dr. Peter Pham as well. A Somaliland supporter who wrote many articles on the subject. 

He is now the US envoy to the Great lakes region.  

Somaliland is indeed making good solid friends. 

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Che,

You have lived in the US long enough, and you are still a neophyte about their political system and the role think-tanks and other outside institutions, such as lobbying firms in Washington (i..e., the famous K-Street in Washington, which is where all the lobbying firms have their offices), charities, PACs and even elites universities plays in the "formation" of each new and upcoming elected administration and its policy cadres.

And by that I mean, AEI is essentially a Conservative outfit in which any GOP's administration will recruit from it, particularly when they get in to office. Hence, the reason Mr Bolton is NSA, and, of course, previously he was there at the AEI.

Moreover, US's foreign policy (at least the GOP's version of it) is essentially a policy in which think-tanks, like this AEI and Heritage organisation (which is another libertarian's outfit leaning towards the GOP) makes completely for any would-be GOP's administration. Be it this current Trump one, or be it any other previous one, whereby the most famous (or infamous one, dependent on your taste of things) was the then George W. Bush administration.

So, all in all, he, Mr Rubin, may be a lobbyist (as you say) and at the same time, he may be a resident scholar at the AEI. But the whole of the US's system of government (from the Congress to the Executive) is actually one large-influence-peddling-and-lobbyist-saturated-outfit. And it had been that case ever since anyone can remember it.

2 hours ago, Suldaanka said:

They used to write off Dr. Peter Pham as well. A Somaliland supporter who wrote many articles on the subject. 

He is now the US envoy to the Great lakes region.  

Somaliland is indeed making good solid friends. 

Suldaanka,

Yep, that is true. And in fact he is very close to Mr Bolton at the NSC. Hence, he was made a "specific envoy" of the US for the greater lake region of Africa, where US and China are genuinely "locked-in" in a perpetual, almost cold-war-style, "strategical tussle" over who will call the shots in this region of Africa. Which is a region that has an abundant of "extractive wealth", as it was the case during the cold-war era.  

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Oh dear, thanks for the unsolicited lecture on how Washington works. Rubin's sudden interest on Somali issues has less to do with America's views on Somalia or that of the conservative think-tanks. It's clear he's paid lobbyist which in itself is fine. There's nothing wrong with buying influence to further your interest. That's how Washington revolving doors work.

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1 hour ago, Che -Guevara said:

Oh dear, thanks for the unsolicited lecture on how Washington works. Rubin's sudden interest on Somali issues has less to do with America's views on Somalia or that of the conservative think-tanks. It's clear he's paid lobbyist which in itself is fine. There's nothing wrong with buying influence to further your interest. That's how Washington revolving doors work.

But still all the same, next time you feel bit angry (or bit put-off) about someone advancing Somaliland's interests at the corridors of Washington's power-lobby-nexus, feel free to come around here of SOL, gnashing your teeth, and I shall be good enough to ram down your throat all manner of "unsolicited lectures". That is a fair deal, I suppose, eh, mate?  

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15 hours ago, Che -Guevara said:

It's you that's angry. Besides, this silly thing was posted by your homeboy.

I hate to go on in circles with inanity line of argument with you, which is what you are rolling up yours sleeves for it in here, at least by the looks of your conduct. But, actually, if you are a bit sober in here, you will see that it was you who actually have had a very angry response by the fact of seeing Mr Rubin's article in here.

And as result of it, you went on in a "verbal rampage" about how he is a lobbyist, and how if you pay him, he will then change his "tune" in 180 degrees of direction. And all the rest of it, which was what you said it in here.

Hence, I was merely pointing out to you, that, next time, you see someone who is advancing Somaliland's interests in the corridors of Trump's administration, and you find yourself being bit angry about it, then come in here of SOL and let it all out. And let it loose in here all of that "bitter spleen" in which you may get it from that "spectacle". And I in turn shall see to it to give you a bit of "unsolicited lectures" for all of your troubles in right here.

That is why I said that should be a "fair deal" for all around. Got it, now, dear ninny?  

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