Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday threatened more international troops and sanctions against anyone in Somalia that attempts to block so-called “reforms” which the U.S. and its allies are claiming intend to end conflict in the country.
“The position of the United States is straightforward: attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated,” Clinton told a one-day gathering in London of about 40 African, Arab and Western leaders and government ministers. Her words were largely aimed at the Islamic militant group al-Shabab. Al-Shabab, the largest militant faction in the nation, rejected the conference, warning that the international intervention would prolong instability in the region.
But “progress” certainly doesn’t refer to anything the U.S. has been pushing in Somalia. The U.S. is giving weapons, intelligence, and legitimacy to thugs and murderous warlords in Somalia, some of whom used to be fighters for the very militants the U.S. now has them fighting against. The U.S. has also backed African Union troops and the Kenyan military in their fight against al-Shabab.
In a recent piece in Foreign Affairs published only a matter of days before al-Qaeda officially announced a merger with al-Shabab, professor of international affairs at Qatar University Afyare Abdi Elmi and journalist Abdi Aynte argued “military involvement in Somalia has been counterproductive.”
Interestingly, Clinton also criticized the corrupt, U.S.-backed Somali authorities, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). ”We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions,” Clinton said, “including travel bans and asset freezes, on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.”
The conference attendees cheered the UN Security Council’s decision to increase the size of the African Union force attempting to prop up the TFG. Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali pushed for “targeted airstrikes” by the international community to help his weak state expand control beyond the capital city of Mogadishu.
Clinton also threatened to push for “a more permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia” once security improved. But for a tribal society that has largely been defined by driving out abusive intruders, that is unlikely to improve the situation.
“One can legitimately argue that … Somalia’s enduring ‘failed state’ existence has been because of international community involvement, the precise opposite of Cameron’s argument that it has been ignored,” said Hannah Waddilove, Africa analyst with security firm AKE.
She said the conference was cynically motivated, a political ploy for Britain to appear to be addressing terrorism in the year the country holds the summer Olympic games.
with Jason Ditz