How the U.S. Can Help in Somalia

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Dec. 18 front-page article "U.S. Sees Growing Threats in Somalia" failed to note that two-thirds of Somalia -- Puntland and the Republic of Somaliland -- are peaceful and are not under the control of the Council of Islamic Courts.

In fact, both areas have held democratic elections, are governed by written constitutions and are relatively stable. Based on the stability in these two regions, there are viable options for avoiding the impending catastrophe of war in the south, a disaster brought on by the Bush administration's diplomatic incompetence and ignorance of Somali history.

The United States should:

· Together with Britain and the rest of the European Union, provide economic and developmental aid to Somaliland and Puntland to increase their stability and give Somalis real alternatives to the warfare in the south.

· Read the riot act to Ethiopia and force it to withdraw its troops from Somalia. Ethiopia's presence is like pouring gasoline on a fire and is driving Somalis of all political persuasions into the arms of the Islamic Courts movement. Ethiopia is seriously undermining U.S. security interests in the area.

· Provide logistical support for the immediate deployment of an African Union force, comprising troops from Muslim nations (such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria) to Baidoa to protect the transitional federal government. That will defuse the religious issue and the appeal for foreign fighters to go to Mogadishu and side with the Islamic Courts.

· Recognize that all Somali politics is tribal, begin a diplomatic offensive to split clans off from the predominantly Hawiye Islamist Courts movement and support a tribally diverse unity government.

The key is not to treat all of Somalia, which is about the size of Texas, as if the situation in Mogadishu and the south is the same as that throughout the country.



The writer was a special adviser to former U.S. ambassador Robert Gossende during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company