US strategy in Somalia shifts from development to military cooperation

World Today

US increased ground, air support for Somali and AU troops

In the wake of last year’s massive terrorist strike, the U.S. has been providing more ground-and-air support to Somali and African Union troops. But it has also significantly reduced security and development aid. CGTN’s Daniel Ryntjes reports.

The U.S. Africa Command led naval training with Somali and other regional forces in Djibouti earlier this year.

Funding for this kind of long-term assistance has been dramatically reduced under President Donald Trump – while American airstrikes and ground support for the African Union and Somali forces have been increasing.

“Over the last ten years, conversations about security in Somalia has been about military operations, airstrikes, offensive operations against Al-Shabaab,” Somali National Security Advisor Abdisaid Ali explained. “These are important components of the fight against terrorism. But we would all acknowledge that terrorism cannot be defeated by military means alone.”

Ali agrees with a panel of experts gathered at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies who are calling for support in building economic and political unity.

Dr. Andrew Lesage, the director of Sage Research, said that “One thing that Al Shabaab is very deft at, is its ability to go in and manipulate clan grievances. So that if one clan is seen as dominating a federal state or a particular security unit and that clan has enemies, Al-Shabaab will go to those enemies and say ‘let us be your force multiplier, let’s work with you to resist your traditional enemies.’ And that logic needs to be broken down.”

Dramatic reductions in American funding for security training and development to Somalia are undermining the U.S. strategy there.

That’s according to Brittany Brown, the most senior advisor on African strategy to former President Barack Obama and then to President Donald Trump – until she left the White House a year ago.

“What’s happened is that the Trump administration has systematically undermined, both financially and bureaucratically, the diplomatic and development aspects of the U.S. foreign policy, therefore leaving the military,” Brown argued. “So the only thing that’s left is the military who is fully funded and has unlimited power under the Trump administration. So with that in mind, the easy thing to do is to look to drone strikes.”

More than half of the population of Somalia, 6.2 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, under strain from the twin perils of conflict and drought.

Somali experts say the U.S. needs to go beyond immediate security assistance to help strengthen this fragile state and prevent a new generation from being driven into the arms of Al-Shabaab.