Back in January, President Obama said that he has no intention of sending U.S. troops into terrorist havens. However, in addition to working with regional partners to support the Dijbouti Peace Process, the administration is currently playing a direct role in providing Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) with increased support in an effort to stabilize the country against insurgent groups, many connected to the terrorist organization, al-Shabaab.
In an effort to beef up the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, the United States is committed to denying al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations safe haven in Somalia. According to the New York Times, the U.S. is currently providing training to Somali intelligence officers, support to peacekeepers, fuel for military maneuvers, surveillance information concerning insurgent positioning, and funding for arms. While the vast majority of American assistance to the TFG has gone to training and supporting African Union peacekeepers, it is believed that the U.S. could become more heavily involved, including launching air strikes and “Special Ops moving in, hitting, and getting out,” according to a source cited by the New York Times.
This engagement with Somalia must be carefully monitored by Congress and the American public. Currently, Somalia lacks a legitimate and viable government. At present, the TFG’s span of authority is measured in city blocks and has a limited reach outside the scarred capital of the nation. The TFG is the fifteenth attempt to create a stable government in Somalia since the fall of Muhammad Siyad Barre’s dictatorship. It is also important to note as Africa expert Peter Pham has pointed out, that while the United States has never technically severed relations with Somalia, it has never recognized any of the fifteen governments, including the current TFG. Furthermore, the Somali people have little faith in the TFG and it is regarded as a weak institution yet to prove itself capable of defending its citizens.
Investment in Somalia is being wasted. The TFG is rife with corruption and criminal activity. According to the UN, “Despite infusions of foreign training and assistance, government security forces remain ineffective, disorganized and corrupt- a composite of independent militias loyal to senior government officials and military officers who profit from the business of war and resist their integration under a single command.” Furthermore, the TFG “has never deployed regimental or brigade-sized units on the battlefield,” and yet, the United States continues put money towards training security forces that fail to do the job they are set out to do. There is grave concern that while the U.S. must stand firm against al-Qaeda and go after international terrorism ; it must be wary of being sucked into yet another doomed effort to stand-up a Somali government