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U.S. Will Push U.N. for Somalia Mission
"There are a lot of foreigners in the Shabaab, which means their agenda is less and less Somali," said Fabienne Hara, the New York director of the International Crisis Group. She said a push for power in Mogadishu by al-Shabaab would be messier this time around as it sparred with a "patchwork" of clans, militias and rival Islamist factions.
During her visit to New York, Rice is set to seek passage of a resolution authorizing foreign states "to take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia" in pursuit of pirates, according to a copy of the draft U.S. resolution. Rice will use the talks to open a broader discussion on the roots of Somalia's security crisis, as well as the need for a second resolution establishing a U.N. peacekeeping force. "There is, in our view, no sound resolution of the piracy problem in the absence of extending adequate governance," said a senior State Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "The essential piece is to get the U.N. peacekeeping operation in there and stabilize the situation."
Critics say the Bush administration's approach to Somalia is showing signs of increasing incoherence. They say U.S. support for Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia -- and its missile attacks against al-Qaeda targets in that country -- was a major blunder that strengthened al-Shabaab's standing, and that the U.S. push for a new force of U.N. peacekeepers will backfire.
"The strategy designed to block al-Shabaab actually gives them the target that fuels their insurgency," said Kenneth Menkhaus, a professor of political science at Davidson College in North Carolina. "It's self-defeating. The most effective way to stop al-Shabaab is Somali-led resistance."
The administration has been struggling for two years to persuade foreign governments -- including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria -- to lead or support a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. But the United States has faced resistance from the U.N. peacekeeping department, which is trying to get troops and equipment for troubled missions in Darfur, Sudan and Congo.
The U.N. bureaucracy has been sharply divided over Somalia, the scene of a disastrous joint U.S. and U.N. peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s. The United Nations' top envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah of Mauritania, sharply criticized U.N. military planners for proposing a force that is so sophisticated and costly that even "the U.K., France or the United States" could not meet the requirements.
"We need some kind of peacekeeping mission in Somalia to reassure people," he said. "We have a genocide in slow motion because Somalia has been abandoned by its own leadership, abandoned by the international community, and we have to do something today."