Congress should not be so naive. It is time to cut Somalia off. U.S. money is making Somalia worse. Mohamud and the Danab have been caught red-handed. Enough is enough.
By Michael Rubin
Mohamed Aden Suleiman, a U.S.-trained battalion commander from Somalia’s elite Danab Brigade, died fighting Western-oriented, democratic Somaliland last weekend.
The confirmation of his death comes less than a week after the U.S. Embassy bragged about its investment in the Danab Brigade and almost four months after China-backed Somalia attacked one of only two countries in Africa to embrace Taiwan. The Pentagon had trained that unit to fight al-Shabaab terrorists.
A decade ago, the Benghazi failure loomed large, and critics increasingly asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton what she had accomplished over her four-year tenure. She embraced Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and declared that Somalia was on the rebound. It was an exaggeration.
Then as now, a small handful of appointed elites selected rather than elected the Somali government. It was the world’s most corrupt government. Warlordism remained rife.
Clinton’s embrace of Somalia opened the floodgates of both U.S. assistance and international aid. Somalia received tens of billions of dollars to fund both development and a new military. It never worked. Even as Somali elites embezzled aid, the State Department urged debt relief. While Somaliland held repeated one-man, one-vote elections with less than $10 million in external aid, Somalia received $1.5 billion dollars but still has not held real elections.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has questioned the value of U.S. assistance to Ukraine. He is wrong. Ukraine has shown bang for the buck. As Russia challenges the liberal order, what happens in Ukraine matters. When it comes to Somalia, however, DeSantis is right. Sending assistance to Somalia absent accountability is always a mistake. Taxpayer money should never be an entitlement.
It has been clear for several years that Somalia’s terrorism problem begins in Villa Somalia, the country’s White House. Fahad Yasin, Somalia’s former national security chief who remains in government, is dangerously close to al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. Mohamud may present a more professional face than his death squad-wielding predecessor did, but the chief difference between the two is style rather than substance.
The death of a U.S.-trained military leader fighting to undermine Somaliland is a scandal. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act demanded the U.S. move closer to Somaliland, not do China’s dirty work. It is now clear Mogadishu misled Washington and that Pentagon quality control is nonexistent. Danab fighters, the flagship of U.S. Horn of Africa security policy, rather act as clan mercenaries than fight terrorists.
The State Department may make the same mistake multiple times, and the Pentagon may refuse to recognize its program encourages terrorism rather than counters it. Congress, however, should not be so naive. It is time to cut Somalia off. U.S. money is making Somalia worse. Mohamud and the Danab have been caught red-handed. Enough is enough.
About Michael Rubin
Arab politics, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Horn of Africa
Bio & Experience
Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.
A former Pentagon official, Dr. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, and both pre-and postwar Iraq. He also spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. For more than a decade, he taught classes at sea about the Horn of Africa and Middle East conflicts, culture, and terrorism, to deployed US Navy and Marine units.
Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).
Dr. Rubin has a Ph.D. and an MA in history from Yale University, where he also obtained a BS in biology.
- Foreign Military Studies Office: Contract Analyst, 2012–present
- Naval Postgraduate School: Senior Lecturer, 2007–21
- Middle East Quarterly: Editor, 2004–09
- Coalition Provisional Authority (Baghdad): Political Adviser, 2003–04
- Office of the Secretary of Defense: Staff Adviser, Iran and Iraq, 2002–04
- Council on Foreign Relations: International Affairs Fellow, 2002–03
- Hebrew University (Jerusalem): Fellow, The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, 2001–02
- Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs: Fellow, 2000–01
- Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok (Iraqi Kurdistan): Visiting Lecturer, 2000–01
- Yale University: Lecturer, Department of History, 1999–2000
- Iranian Studies: Assistant Editor, 1994–97
Ph.D. and MA in history; BS in biology, Yale University
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