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Somalia and the International Community: Facing Reality, remarks by Amb. David H. Shinn

Somalia and the International Community: Facing Reality, remarks by Amb. David H. Shinn



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Published by David Shinn
Remarks by David H. Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, at the Ninth Horn of Africa Conference Focus on Somalia, organized by the Somalia International Rehabilitation Centre in Lund, Sweden, June 4-6, 2010

Remarks by David H. Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, at the Ninth Horn of Africa Conference Focus on Somalia, organized by the Somalia International Rehabilitation Centre in Lund, Sweden, June 4-6, 2010

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Published by: David Shinn on Jun 04, 2010
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Horn of Africa Conference Focus on Somalia
The Role of Democratic Governance versus Sectarian Politics in SomaliaOrganized by the Somalia International Rehabilitation CentreLund, Sweden4-6 June 2010
Somalia and the International Community: Facing Reality
Remarks by David H. ShinnAdjunct Professor, Elliott School of International AffairsGeorge Washington University
The international community collectively has been wringing its hands aboutSomalia since the national government in Mogadishu collapsed at the beginning of 1991.By the end of 1992, it began a herculean effort to help Somalia return to nation statestatus. The United States organized a military coalition called UNITAF; a few monthslater the first ever UN chapter 7 peacekeeping operation replaced it. Although these twomissions did end the Somali famine, the reason they initially went into Somalia and a factthat has seldom been acknowledged since, they failed miserably at reconstructing theSomali state. During this period, I devoted most of my time in the State Department inWashington to the international intervention in Somalia. I know the history well andhave some appreciation for the mistakes made by the international community.Arguably, one of the biggest mistakes was the virtual abandonment of Somalia bythe international community when it became apparent that the UN operation had becomeobsessively entangled in the hunt to capture Mohammed Farah Aideed. Following the 3October 1993 so-called “Blackhawk Down” battle, all American troops left Somalia byMarch 1994. The remainder of the UN force departed about a year later. From that pointon, the international community, although it continued to provide emergency food aid,did everything it could to avoid involvement in Somalia. The international communitymostly wrung its hands until it increased its engagement two or three years ago. In thecase of the United States, the unhappy involvement in Somalia even resulted in a decisionin 1994 not to send troops into Rwanda to help prevent a horrific genocide. In fact, sinceits experience in Somalia the United States has never, with one exception, put significantnumbers of U.S. forces on the ground in Africa.The only issue that revived international and especially American interest inSomalia was the growing terrorism problem. Several al-Qaeda operatives, none of whomwas a Somali, responsible for the destruction in 1998 of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam took refuge in Somalia. The 9/11 attacks on the United Statesand the subsequent U.S. attack on Afghanistan heightened American concern about a possible link between Somalia and terrorism. Some analysts in Washington inaccuratelythought the attack on Afghanistan would drive al-Qaeda and the Taliban to Somalia.While this did not happen, there was a slow radicalization taking place among some
elements of Somali society. It began with al-Ittihad al-Islami, now defunct or at leastdormant, and more recently al-Shabaab, which publicly emphasizes its links to al-Qaeda.The growth of the Islamic Courts in Somalia and threatening statements by someof its leaders caused neighboring Ethiopia, at the request of the Somali TransitionalFederal Government (TFG) leadership at the time, to invade Somalia at the end of 2006.I opposed this policy from the beginning. I believe the invasion contributed to the further radicalization of elements of the Somali population. Contrary to popular belief, theUnited States did not encourage Ethiopia to invade Somalia, but once Ethiopia occupiedMogadishu, the U.S. clearly urged it to stay there to support the weak TFG. Ethiopia haslargely been out of Somalia since the beginning of 2009 and no longer serves as therallying cry for Somali nationalism. Nevertheless, groups such as al-Shabaab, althoughweakened by factionalism, pose a major threat to the TFG. As the TFG became morevulnerable to attack from al-Shabaab and other groups, the African Union agreed to senda force to Mogadishu at the beginning of 2007 to replace the Ethiopians. Today morethan 6,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi are largely responsible for keeping the TFGin power in the capital. This brings us to the current role for the international community.
Time for another Major International Military Presence in Somalia?
There are some who now call for a massive UN intervention in Somalia with amandate that would allow it to occupy the country. Let me remind supporters of such a proposal that this approach did not work in the early and mid-1990s and it certainly is notthe answer today. A multinational coalition with little understanding of the situation onthe ground would immediately find itself engaged militarily with a host of radicalizedSomali groups. While the larger international force would probably win most of itsmilitary engagements, it could not possibly occupy all of Somalia and its very presencewould further radicalize additional Somalis.The United Nations currently has more than 100,000 troops, police and expertsassigned to its peacekeeping operations around the world. It is stretched thin. So far, theUN Security Council has refused to even send UN forces to supplement those troops withthe African Union mission in Somalia. It is clearly not prepared to authorize a huge UN peacekeeping operation in the country. Nor is a coalition of the willing such as the United States organized late in 1992 arealistic possibility. As I noted earlier, the United States has not sent troops back toAfrica since it intervened in Somalia during 1992-1994 with the exception of establishinga static counterterrorism support base in Djibouti in 2002. There are about 1,700 militaryand civilian personnel assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). It is my understanding, however, that any U.S. military actions inside Somalia inrecent years did not emanate from CJTF-HOA but usually from ships offshore under other commands.The international community simply does not have the stomach or thediscretionary funding to launch a major military campaign in Somalia. The internationalfinancial crisis, relatively low foreign policy priority of Somalia and the fact that a fewEuropean countries are nearly on fiscal life support underscores my belief that this is justnot a realistic possibility. Frankly, this is a good thing as I believe it would be a mistakeanyway. In fact, the sooner the TFG can stand on its own and the African Union forces2
can leave the country, the better it will be for Somalia, the African Union and theinternational community.
So What Can the International Community Do?
For all of the criticism aimed at the international community since the failure of the international intervention in Somalia during the early and mid-1990s, it is importantto acknowledge the growing international commitment to Somalia in the past severalyears. There have been a series of high level conferences on Somalia. One took place inBrussels just over a year ago. The International Contact Group on Somalia alsoassembles regularly; it met most recently about a month ago in Cairo. The mostimportant recent event occurred in Istanbul from 21-23 May 2010 when the United Nations and Turkey co-hosted representatives of fifty-five nations and twelveinternational organizations to review the steps the international community should take tosupport the TFG. In the past, governments and organizations attending these conferencesoften did not follow through with their pledges, but there is increasing evidence over the past year that the urgency of the situation in Somalia has focused their attention.The Istanbul Declaration reaffirmed the Djibouti peace process and urged theTFG to address the numerous political, economic and security challenges that face it.This is not very helpful guidance for a government that is dependent on outsideassistance. The Declaration recognized the importance of training, equipping and payingthe TFG security forces. To its credit, the international community over the past year hassignificantly increased its training effort. Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopiahave all trained TFG security personnel, sometimes funded by the United States and other  parties. France has trained TFG forces in Djibouti. The European Union has startedtraining, under Spanish command, of TFG forces in Uganda. The German Armed Forcesalso recently began to train Somali security forces in Uganda. Turkey announced at theIstanbul conference that its military would join the training of TFG personnel. This is animportant step, but success also depends on recruiting Somalis loyal to the TFG andensuring that they regularly receive pay competitive with that offered by al-Shabaab andother organizations that oppose the TFG.The Istanbul Declaration emphasized the need to move forward with Somalia’seconomic recovery and development. While this can only happen in a meaningful wayafter there is an improvement in the security situation, it is a task for the internationalcommunity. The TFG does not have the money for such an effort. The European Unionis the most important development assistance donor in Somalia. It is currently supportingeighty-seven projects costing 180 million Euros. The projects are in three sectors:governance and security, including institution building; primary and secondary educationand adult literacy; and agriculture, livestock and food security. The European Union also provides about 45 million Euros annually for humanitarian assistance and it hascommitted since 2007 about 100 million Euros to cover the costs of the African UnionMission to Somalia.For its part, the United States has committed $185 million since 2007 to theAfrican Union force in Somalia. It also provided $12 million of in-kind support and $2million in cash support to the TFG. In June 2009, this included 94 tons of ammunition,small arms, uniforms, communications equipment and night vision equipment to the3

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