Trader: Somali Insurgency Buying Arms US Gave to Government

State Department's "Tons of Arms" Being Sold at Market

In June, the US State Department went public with the revelation that it has provided nearly 40 tons of arms to the ever-floundering Somali government to combat the al-Shabaab insurgency. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged to double the supply to 80 tons after a meeting with Somali President Ahmed.

At the same time, the US has threatened a series of sanctions and at one point a military invasion to the nearby nation of Eritrea, which it has accused of supplying weapons to the al-Shabaab insurgency. Eritrea has denied supplying the weapons though it has been backing various groups opposed to the self-proclaimed Somali government.

But if Eritrea isn’t supplying the al-Shabaab with weapons, where are they getting them all? The answer, it seems is much simpler. According to traders at Mogadishu’s Cirtoogte Market, Somali forces routinely bring the light arms provided to them by the US government to the market and sell them to traders, who turn around and sell them to the insurgency at a tidy profit.

As the largest weapons exporter in the world, it seems inevitable that the US would at some point find itself arming both sides of many conflicts. In this case, however, it seems to be not a deliberate policy decision but rather a function of shipping “tons” of free weapons to a war torn nation and just assuming it would somehow create legitimacy out of a government that appointed itself in a Kenyan soccer stadium.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.