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...

(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:
https://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

Ron Dermer is the Israeli ambassador to the United States and has deep connections to the Republican Party and the neoconservative movement.


The Washington-based American Enterprise Institute is a rightist think tank with a broad mandate covering a range of foreign and domestic policy issues that is known for its strong connections to neoconservatism and overseas debacles like the Iraq War.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Since taking office Donald Trump has revealed an erratic and extremely hawkish approach to U.S. foreign affairs, which has been marked by controversial actions like dropping out of the Iran nuclear agreement that have raised tensions across much of the world and threatened relations with key allies.


Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and an evangelical pastor, is a far-right pundit known for his hawkish policies and opposition to an Israeli peace deal with the Palestinians.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is known for her lock-step support for Israel and considered by some to be a future presidential candidate.


Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share