Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Blowback from the “War on Terror” in Somalia

(Inter Press Service) U.S. counterterrorism policies and support for the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia have helped create an increasingly...

Print Friendly

(Inter Press Service)

U.S. counterterrorism policies and support for the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia have helped create an increasingly desperate humanitarian and security situation in the East African nation, whose population has become increasingly radicalized and anti-United States, according to a new report by a major U.S. human rights group.

The report, authored by Ken Menkhaus, a Davidson College professor who is regarded as one of the foremost U.S. experts on the Horn of Africa, calls for a thorough reassessment of U.S. policy, including its support for the TFG and the primacy it has given to its "war on terror" in Somalia.

"U.S. counterterrorism policies have not only compromised other international agendas in Somalia, they have generated a high level of anti-Americanism and are contributing to radicalization of the population," concluded the report, entitled "Somalia: A Country in Peril, a Foreign Policy Nightmare."

"In what could become a dangerous instance of blowback, defense and intelligence operations intended to make the United States more secure from the threat of terrorism may be increasing the threat of jihadist attacks on American interests," the report stressed.

The 17-page report, released by ENOUGH, a group launched last year by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group and the Washington-based Center for American Progress, was released amid continuing violence in Somalia that has forced some one million people to flee their homes since December 2006, when U.S.-backed Ethiopian and TFG forces swept the Islamic Courts Union out of the capital, Mogadishu, and other major cities and towns.

The United Nations recently estimated that, barring substantial improvement in the security situation, some 3.5 million Somalis will be dependent on humanitarian aid by the end of this year.

"The [current] crisis is fundamentally different and fundamentally worse than the situation of the last decade and a half," said Chris Albin-Lackey, a Horn of Africa specialist at Human Rights Watch, who appeared with Menkhaus at the report’s release at a conference sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars last Wednesday.

Albin-Lackey, who has conducted some 80 interviews of Somali refugees in East Africa in the past month, said ongoing violence, including almost daily artillery bombardments by Ethiopian Army and TFG forces on the one hand and opposition militias, including the Islamist Shabaab on the other, as well as assassinations carried out by both sides, have added to the insecurity.

"People have nowhere to turn for security," he said, adding that search operations by TFG forces, while nominally for the purpose of arresting suspected insurgents, had become "an excuse for murder, rape, and looting on an incredibly large scale." As a result, he said, Mogadishu has become "largely depopulated" with about two-thirds of the population—or about 800,000 people—having left their homes there over the past 18 months.

Menkhaus described last month’s signing by the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) of the "Djibouti Agreement" negotiated between moderate leaders of both sides with the help of U.N. Special Representative Ahmadou Ould-Abdulla last June as an "important step" toward reconciliation but warned that hardliners in both camps could derail it.

The agreement, which has been rejected by the Shabaab and was only agreed to by the hawkish TFG president, Adullahi Yusuf, under heavy pressure from Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, calls for a cessation of hostilities, deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force, and the subsequent withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.

"The hope is that any agreement that facilitates the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces will open the door for an end to the insurgency," according to the report.

But the implementation of the agreement faces "steep challenges," warned Menkhaus, not least because "the moderates [who negotiated the accord] don’t control any of the armed groups." While the Shabaab have already denounced the ARS leaders as "apostates," he noted, hardliners in the TFG know that they can stay in power "if and only if the Ethiopians stay."

Only by reinforcing the moderates can the international community, including the United States, enhance the chances for the agreement’s successful implementation and, with it, the chances for reconciliation, according to Menkhaus. But that will require major changes in U.S. and Western policies, which have "actually worked to strengthen and embolden hardliners" over the past two years.

In that respect, the U.S. emphasis on counterterrorism has been particularly destructive, not only in supporting the Ethiopian offensive in December 2006, but, more recently, in placing the Shabaab on its list of designated terrorist groups last March. That step not only isolated opposition moderates from their own coalition but also gave the Shabaab "even more reason to sabotage" ongoing peace talks.

At the same time, Washington has provided "robust financial and logistical support to armed paramilitaries resisting the command and control of the TFG, even though they technically wear a TFG hat," to both fight the Shabaab and track down suspected terrorists.

"To the extent that these security forces also deeply oppose … reconciliation efforts with the opposition, the U.S. counterterrorism partnerships have also undermined peace-building efforts by emboldening spoilers in the government camp," according to the report.

Washington has not been alone in supporting the hardliners, however. As part of their state-building agenda, other Western donors have also provided direct support to TFG security forces under the control of the hawks. Despite the United Nation’s role as a supposedly neutral broker between the TFG and the opposition, the U.N. Development Program has also provided security assistance to the TFG.

The Tomahawk missile attack that killed Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Ayro in May—the latest in a series of similar strikes against armed Islamists in Somalia allegedly tied to al Qaeda—resulted in a sharp radicalization in the group, which announced at the time that it would strike against U.S. and Western targets, including aid workers, as well as Ethiopian and TFG forces, compounding an already dramatic humanitarian crisis.

"Somalia today is the most dangerous place in the world for humanitarian aid workers," according to Menkhaus. More than 20 humanitarian workers have been killed since January, while some 30 more have been kidnapped.

"The situation in Somalia today exceeds the worst-case scenarios conjured up by regional analysts when they first contemplated the possible impact of an Ethiopian military occupation," according to the report. "Over the past 18 months, Somalia has descended into terrible levels of displacement and humanitarian need, armed conflict and assassinations, political meltdown, radicalization, and virulent anti-Americanism."

"We’ve gotten the exact opposite of what we set out to achieve," Menkhaus noted, including a "population radically angry at us and very fertile ground for al Qaeda."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to PRA’s Right Web (http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org). His blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.

Citations

Analysis by Jim Lobe , "Blowback from the “War on Terror” in Somalia" Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
http://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4950.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), a stalwart advocate of Pentagon spending now based at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, says he would have voted for the Iraq War even if he had known the Bush administration’s claims about WMDs were false.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and nominated by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Although better known for his domestic platform promoting “limited” government, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has expressed strong sympathies for projecting U.S. military power abroad.


James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was one of Congress’s staunchest foreign policy hawks and a “pro-Israel” hardliner.


A self-styled terrorism “expert” who claims that the killing of Osama bin Laden strengthened Al Qaeda, former right-wing Lebanese militia member Walid Phares wildly claims that the Obama administration gave the Muslim Brotherhood “the green light” to sideline secular Egyptians.


Weekly Standard editor and PNAC cofounder Bill Kristol is a longtime neoconservative activist and Washington political operative.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

Spurred by anti-internationalist sentiment among conservative Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration, the US is headed for a new confrontation with the UN over who decides how much the US should pay for peacekeeping.


Print Friendly

Decent developments in the Trump administration indicate that the neoconservatives, at one point on the margins of Washington’s new power alignments, are now on the ascendent?


Print Friendly

As the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president approaches, it seems that his version of an “America-first” foreign policy is in effect a military-first policy aimed at achieving global hegemony, which means it’s a potential doomsday machine.


Print Friendly

Hopeful that Donald Trump may actually be their kind of guy, neoconservatives are full of praise for the cruise-missile strike against Syria and are pressing for more.


Print Friendly

Steve Bannon’s removal from the NSC’s Principals Committee doesn’t mean that he’s gone from the White House or no longer exerts a powerful influence on Trump. His office is still located very close to the Oval Office, and there’s nothing to indicate that his dark and messianic worldview has changed.


Print Friendly

Promoting sanctions that could undermine the Iran nuclear deal, pushing security assistance for Israel, combatting BDS, and more.


Print Friendly

Contrary to some wishful thinking following the Trump administration’s decision to “put Iran on notice” and seemingly restore U.S.-Saudi ties, there are little signs of apprehension in Tehran.


RightWeb
share