Sending hundreds of U.S. Troops or killing more Al-Shabaab leaders would not solve Somalia’s bad governance and corruption. The solution to Somalia’s problems is not a military, but rather a political one.
By Ali-Guban Mohamed
President Biden campaigned on a platform to end ‘the never-ending wars’. But the New York Times is reporting that he is redeploying hundreds of US troops to Somalia to fight Al-Shabaab extremists that control swaths of territory in southern Somalia.
The decision reverses President Trump’s decision to withdraw 700 U.S. military personnel who were stationed in the war-torn country on a rotation basis.
“Our forces are not now, nor will they be, directly engaged in combat operations,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. “The purpose here is to enable a more effective fight against al-Shabaab by local forces.”
The Biden administration has yet to explain to the American people and the Congress: Why are U.S. troops still fighting in Somalia? What are we trying to accomplish? When will our troops come home?
But this new, expanding U.S. involvement in Somalia’s conflict will do little to make a difference in Somalia or bolster the position of the U.S.-backed, feckless Somali government. The deployment would put American troops in harm’s way because Somalia still is dangerous and messy.
In fact, the pace and intensity of Al -Shabaab attacks have increased lately. Earlier this month, the group attacked an AU base housing Burundian troops in Aiel–Baraf, a village, 110 km north of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital killing dozens of Burundian troops. Al-Shabaab attacks have also breached the most secure place—the Mogadishu airport, which is located inside Somalia’s Green Zone.
On May 15, the clan-based Somali legislature elected former president Hassan Mohamud as the new leader in a sham election marred by corruption and fraud. He is holed up in a hilltop Villa in Mogadishu. His previous administration was riddled with corruption, graft, and bad governance. He failed to deliver security, justice, and critical services to the people. The government authority does not reach beyond Villa Somalia, where 22,000 African troops and private contractors keep a tottering Somali government alive.
Describing the depth of corruption in Somalia’s elections, our own Ambassador, Larry E. André, Jr. said that “most of the seats had been selected by regional leaders, “sold” or” auctioned”, according to the New York Times Story.
We should not read much from Mohamud’s election because his success would depend on how entrenched, the Hawiye clan elites in Mogadishu—who flourished from the lawlessness and chaos—and the leaders of the nominal federal states cooperate.
Sending hundreds of US Troops or killing more Al-Shabaab leaders would not solve Somalia’s bad governance and corruption. The solution to Somalia’s problems is not a military, but rather a political one.
Without any real political progress on the ground, the Pentagon’s efforts to back the local forces, made up of rival Hawiye clan militias, in the campaign against the Al Shabaab would be futile, as the U.S. Africom Commanders have told the Congress.
The Biden administration policy on Somalia does not reflect the facts on the ground. At a time when democracy is under siege from authoritarian powers like China and Russia; State Department’s archaic ‘one-Somalia Policy” is undermining democracy and fostering corruption, and bad governance in the volatile Horn of Africa.
Instead of reinforcing and using U.S. Africom military assets as the Air force for the hopelessly un-elected Somali government-which lacks credibility, and the consent of the Somali people, the U.S. should seek a Solution for Somalia’s problem beyond Mogadishu.
America should rather acknowledge and support the organic solution that worked and benefited the region— democratic, peaceful Somaliland—–former British Somaliland—- one of most democratic in the Horn of Africa region, and other credible, functioning federal states.
America should even take a bold step and recognize independent, democratic Somaliland trading with its neighbors and helping peace and stability in a region rife with violence, China’s predatory practices, authoritarian rule, and terror, are in America’s interest.
For instance, Somaliland, albeit imperfect, for two decades, held over four direct presidential elections routinely in which the losing candidate concedes graciously. Unlike Somalia, where presidential elections are completely sham, and the candidate who bribes most of the 275 legislators wins elections consistently.
Doing so would incentivize Somali leaders to behave and manage their own affairs and move toward good governance and lasting peace which Somalis desperately need.
America’s intervention has been very long and staying longer would not make a difference because everything hinges on how Somalis manage their own affairs.
Why should American sons and daughters serve in harm’s way when the corrupt Somali government and its leaders are more interested in controlling and siphoning foreign aid, which gives them patronage and source of wealth than fighting Al-Shabaab.
President Biden and his military advisers should stop thinking that we need to be the world’s police force regardless of the lives lost and treasured —end the US shadow war in Somalia now—and bring them home.
Ali-Guban Mohamed is the founder and editor of Gubanmedia.com, an online source of news and commentary about the Horn of Africa based in Lewis Center, Ohio.
This piece was originally published in the Columbus Dispatch
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