Clash Between State and Defense on Somalia Policy
With the backdrop of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visiting American forces in Djibouti, the Washington Post is reporting on an internal debate among administration decision makers regarding the course of American policy in Somalia and in the Horn of Africa more broadly. The violence and instability currently taking place is a major threat to the region as it may offer the possibility of al-Qaeda gaining a safe haven in Somalia. According to the report, the Pentagon is agitating toward moving to support Somaliland, the more stable northwestern portion of Somalia that declared its independence in 1991, though this has not been recognized internationally. As a contrast, the State Department supports the continued backing of the Transitional Federal Government based in Mogadishu. According to the Post:
“Somaliland is an entity that works,” a senior defense official said. “We’re caught between a rock and a hard place because they’re not a recognized state,” the official said.
The Pentagon’s view is that “Somaliland should be independent,” another defense official said. “We should build up the parts that are functional and box in” Somalia’s unstable regions, particularly around Mogadishu.In contrast, “the State Department wants to fix the broken part first – that’s been a failed policy,” the official said.
As evidence of State’s support for the TFG, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer had this to say on November 30 regarding the Somali situation:
"On Somalia, I think that the key here is to try to provide support to the new prime minister of Somalia. This is a real opportunity for the Transitional Federal Government to retool, to, in the person of the new prime minister, try to build greater confidence, greater credibility, and to further reach out to the legitimate opposition."
With the violence in Somalia continuing and taken together with the failure of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force to materialize in substantive numbers, support for Somaliland is worthy of further consideration.