Friday, April 12, 2024

Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

US policy in Somalia comes under fire in Congress

June 30, 2006 (WASHINGTON) — Anarchy in Somalia has made it a haven for terrorists, and the United States has failed to develop a coherent policy to stop it, lawmakers from both parties told the Bush administration.

Jendayi_Frazer7.jpg“This has got to change,” a congressman from President George W. Bush’s Republican Party said.

Jendayi E. Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, acknowledged to a House of Representatives panel Thursday that the situation in Somalia “is incredibly dynamic.”

She said, however, that “while counterterrorism is an important issue, it is not the only issue” in Somalia. Others are to improve governance and build institutions, provide humanitarian aid and improve regional security and stability, she said.

“These issues are, of course, interconnected and also provide support for our counterterrorism efforts,” Frazer said.

In an opening statement, Republican Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House International Relations terrorism subcommittee, noted that Somalia was among six locations listed as especially fertile ground for terrorists by a U.S. commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Despite that, “It has gotten to the point where Somalia is a safe haven for terrorists,” Royce said. He blamed that at least partly on neglect by the Bush administration and said “this has got to change” and added later: “Wishing away Somalia isn’t an option.”

Traditionally among the world’s poorest countries, Somalia’s precipitous fall began in 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre. The country at the tip of the Horn of Africa, close to the Saudi peninsula, has had no functioning government since as the warlords fought each other for supremacy.

U.S. policy now is supporting a negotiated transitional federal government backed by the United Nations. It is all but powerless, restricted to Baidoa, more than 90 miles (150 kilometers) from Mogadishu, the capital. Mogadishu is controlled by Islamic militias headed by radical Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is suspected by the United States of collaborating with the terror network al-Qaida. On Thursday, the militias’ executive council claimed authority throughout Somalia a week after agreeing in a unification meeting to recognize the transitional government.

Royce asked Frazer whether the interim administration controls even Baidoa itself.

“Most of it,” she replied to titters in the hearing room.

Another Republican, Rep. Christopher Smith, who organized the joint hearing as chairman of the International Relations Africa subcommittee, said a purpose of the hearing was to “devise a U.S. policy that will help neutralize the growing danger posed by an unstable Somalia.”

He said the United States largely turned away from Somalia after a humanitarian mission to save starving people in 1992 turned disastrous and ended after 18 U.S. soldiers died in a 17-hour gun battle in October 1993.

“Our failure since 1991 to create a successful Somalia policy must not be continued,” Smith said.

The senior Democrat on Smith’s subcommittee, Rep. Donald M. Payne, criticized reported U.S. support for Somalia’s warlords in the round of fighting that brought the Islamic militias to power in Mogadishu. Frazer would not confirm news reports that the CIA had financed the warlords, but she said the United States deals with those it considers helpful to win peace.

Supporting the largely clan-based warlords, Payne said, “calls into question our policy in the region.”

He said the administration was putting trust in the wrong people.

In the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee approved and sent to the full Senate a nonbinding resolution that demands a broader U.S. strategy. The chief sponsor, Sen. Norm Coleman, whose state, Minnesota, has the largest Somali community in the United States, said U.S. involvement “has been too narrowly focused, though the situation on the ground is very complex.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.