The United States tries to keep a tight lid on its official involvement in Africa — particularly the Horn where several nations have invested large sums of money and constructed bases in recent history. However, this build-up is getting hard to ignore. But what is Washington’s plan? Is a new war for resources on the horizon?
U.S. Neoconservatives Suddenly Concerned about Somaliland’s Independence
Last week, Michael Rubin — a resident scholar at the influential neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — published a long-form opinion piece urging the United States to recognize the independent region of Somaliland: a breakaway region in the Horn of Africa.
Rubin makes a strong case for recognizing Somaliland’s independence by pointing out its history suffering colonialism and exploitation at the hands of the West. He cites Somaliland’s remarkable security status when compared to neighboring Somalia.
But since when have neoconservatives — especially a former Pentagon official like Rubin — ever actually cared about self-determination?
Oh, one other thing: Russia might get to them first and that’s bad, according to Rubin.
In fact, rumors are spreading that Russia has plans to build a military base in Somaliland and to invest $250 million into the entity’s natural gas and petroleum industries. Russia, however, has not spoken publicly about any such plans.
The truth is, many countries have their eyes on Somaliland for one major reason: military bases. Its strategic location along the Gulf of Aden makes Somaliland a convenient place for monitoring global capital.
Somaliland also has high hopes for a potentially thriving energy sector. The region has actually turned into an international hub of natural gas exploration in recent years. A Norwegian company, TGS–NOPEC Geophysical Company, has led most of the efforts. Genel Energy Plc (a British company with offices in Turkey and operations in Kurdish regions of Iraq) has also played a large role in the hunt for oil and gas in Somaliland.
If someone finds — or has already found — a valuable resource in Somaliland this could just magnify its geopolitical importance.
…What About Somalia?
If Washington takes heed of Rubin’s advice to officially recognize Somaliland as an independent nation, this will not bode well with neighboring Somalia which officially considers Somaliland and Puntland both part of its territory.
This conjures up mental images of a certain stock photo meme containing a man with wandering eyes and two women.
Officially, both of the self-declared breakaway regions (Somaliland and Puntland) are autonomous inside Somalia — at least as far as most of the “international community” is concerned.
But as the scramble for military bases and resources in Africa heats up, this is likely to change.
Take the case of the United Arab Emirates which already recognizes Somaliland passports and has a base under construction in Puntland.
While the government in Mogadishu, Somalia initially welcomed the Emirati investment, this honeymoon phase quickly wore off. In April, Somali forces raided an Emirati plane and seized almost $10 million worth of supplies which were destined for Puntland. Clashes ensued at a former Emirati training base.
The intricacies of this regional dispute are too complex to discuss here. However, this illustrates what Washington could have on its hands should it recognize Somaliland’s independence. How could the U.S. balance their “anti-terror” mission in Somalia while expanding influence to Somaliland?
Plus, it’s not like Somalia-U.S. relations are doing that great to begin with.
In March of this year, the United States denied a visa application for the former Somali president, H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was scheduled to deliver a lecture. Remember that Somalia falls under the Trump regime’s current travel ban.
When All Else Fails, Use ISIS as an Excuse
The truth is, Russia has military bases in only nine countries whereas the U.S. has over 800 bases in 70 countries — that’s more than double France, Russia, and the UK combined.
Using Russian influence as an excuse to expand the U.S. occupation for resources and power into Somaliland would be convenient but it certainly isn’t a prerequisite.
After all, the United States has terror groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and al-Shabaab. Those groups alone give Washington sweeping power to invade and set up shop anywhere they please thanks to a post-911 authorization from none other than George W. Bush Jr.
The Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists is what allows the United States to conduct their drone strikes in Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria — you get the picture.
In fact, Washington’s propaganda machine, Voice of America, has already mentioned that Somaliland and Puntland are “ripe for exploitation” from groups like ISIS.
With the race on for Africa, it makes sense that the United States would want to recognize Somaliland now. It helps stir up the sectarian conflict which leads to terror groups gaining power which leads to more U.S. occupation to “fight” those terrorists while exploiting the region’s resources.
Top Photo | US Military in Somalia
Randi Nord is a journalist and co-founder of Geopolitics Alert. She covers U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a special focus on Yemen. Support Randi on Patreon.