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US is about to pull out of Somalia again- a mistake
by JACKSON MBUVI
THE UNITED STATES INTENDS to give up on Somalia — yet again. In an interview with BBC last week, US assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Ms Jendayi Fraser, just stopped short of admitting that the US now feels helpless over the goings-on in the troubled Horn of Africa country.
In her own words, it is hard to tell whether the situation is now better or worse than it was six months ago when Ethiopian troops — with the full backing from Washington — stormed Mogadishu to end the eight-month control of Somalia by the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU).
Ms Fraser’s pessimism is backed by statistics. In the past four months, the security and humanitarian crisis in Somalia has become worse with each passing day. Close to 1,000 lives have been lost — the world’s second highest death toll after Baghdad.
ANOTHER HALF A MILLION SOULS have been displaced, causing a dozen unrecorded deaths every week, according to the Red Cross. And, like in Baghdad, one is not sure which building or road in Mogadishu is safe from a planted bomb.
Ms Fraser’s pessimism is a radical departure from her champagne mode when ICU fled Mogadishu in January. She was actually in Nairobi when it happened.
So what could have changed the situation so soon after the Bush administration had reason to believe it was at the top of things in Somalia?
The truth is that ousting the Islamic Courts was merely scratching the surface. The final solution demanded that much more be done and over a longer period.
And that is where the US has gone wrong in all previous efforts to help restore sanity in Mogadishu. It mistakenly believes in a hit-and-run, quick-fix resolution to the Somali conflict.
Indeed, one gets the feeling that the Bush administration is fixated on the Reagan Doctrine of the 1980s when hit-and-run tactics worked to tame Banana republics of Central America like Grenada and Nicaragua. Well, Somalia is a banana case but one that, by its very nature, defies any one-touch solution.
A good illustration of the folly of the US quick-fix mentality is its first engagement in Somalia 15 years ago. With the intention of lessening human suffering in the country two years after the fall of Siad Barre in 1992, the US decided to quickly fix the situation by rushing plane-loads of relief food to the country in an exercise dubbed Operation Provide Relief.
Four months later, and after dropping 13,000 tonnes of food, the US belatedly discovered that the solution to the Somalia crisis was not food but restoration of law and order.
By then, nearly half the food air-lifted from the US was rotting in stores as Somali clan warlords sabotaged distribution networks set up by relief agencies.
Without any consultation, the US came up with yet another quickie. Thousands of marines were dispatched to Mogadishu with instructions to restore law and order and return home as soon as possible.
Two years down the line, the Somali situation had become worse, forcing the US to retreat in a hurry.
But not without a cost. At least 42 marines had been butchered in the streets of Mogadishu, 175 maimed and $3 billion of Federal resources wasted.
Though the US has avoided any situation that may lead to any large-scale humiliation this time around, Washington’s fixation with quick-fix solutions in Somalia is still the modus operandi.
THAT’S WHY US WAS CONTENT THAT the job was as good as done after the Islamists were chased out of Mogadishu six months ago. The truth, however, is that the job had only began.
However, something can still be done to save Somalia. In her interview with BBC last week, Ms Fraser hinted at a two-year “Vision for Somalia” that incorporates all stages of restoring sanity to the troubled country. That is certainly the way to go.
Mr Mbuvi is a consultant on security matters.
Source: Daily Nation