Biden needs to look beyond the military to solve Somalia’s security crisis | Opinion


Between the conflict in Ukraine and the wider People’s Republic of China, the focus is on newly released National Defense Strategy, short US military Commitments such as the proposed withdrawal of several hundred troops to Somalia can be overlooked. Great power competition is clearly a priority, but small commitments like Somalia’s are still costly and cause direct harm to American personnel. Rather than simply sending troops back, the Biden administration needs to prioritize non-military policies to address Somalia’s security crisis.

In March, AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend Told The senators said the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab represents such a serious threat that US troops should return to Somalia. US forces already working to counter Al Shabaab, but have done so from neighboring countries since December 2020 withdrawal Out of 700 soldiers based in Somalia. In Townsend’s estimation, the results of “coming to work” have been less than satisfactory. Moving to Somalia from other countries poses additional risks to personnel, airstrikes not like this effective As once expected, the participants in the fight against the group are faltering.

However, before fulfilling AFRICOM’s request, the White House needs to re-evaluate its Somalia policy. Strategic success will not address the strategic issues at the heart of Somalia’s security crisis. The withdrawal of several hundred soldiers to Somalia would not win the war, solve Somalia’s governance issues, address divisions in the Somali National Army, or deal with the country’s impending famine.

Even on its own terms, the deployment to Somalia has serious drawbacks. Before withdrawal, al-Shabaab attacked positions where American troops were stationed in and near Somalia. In January 2020, the group attacked A Kenyan airbase near the Somali border, killing an American soldier and two American contractors. Worse yet, the increased operational speed after 2017 has increased the risk that US attacks harm Somali civilians.

US security commitments to Somalia may not be scrapped if the US is serious about balancing a “forever war” against Russia in Europe and China in Asia. with the president Joe BidenAfrica’s strategy still in developmentThe final game for US policy in Somalia remains unclear. Yet another deployment is fraught with tough questions. How low does al-Shabaab need to be to end US military deployments? Terrorist groups are difficult to eradicate completely, so what mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that the United States will not need to return once again? Al-Shabaab’s fortunes have risen and dwindled over the years, so it is difficult to claim that the few hundred American troops in the country are needed to permanently defeat the group.

Instead of seeking tactical solutions to strategic problems the Department of Defense (DoD) needs, policymakers outside the DoD need to play a bigger role. Other organs of the US government may focus a variety of efforts, including: to handle Al-Shabaab’s counterfeiting and illegal trade to disrupt the group’s financial network. The intelligence community, including the DoD, can work to disseminate actionable intelligence to Somali forces and other partners. The State Department and USAID can work to avert the country’s impending famine and bring more transparency to Somali governance.

The Department of State should build on its efforts to bring other partners into the fight. For example, the UK has expressed interest in walking shoulder to shoulder. More Regarding the responsibility of training. The long-running African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), meanwhile, was Took place In late March by the African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) in Somalia, which will require serious diplomatic and financial support to meet its goal of withdrawing by 2024.

President Joe Biden speaks to Lockheed Martin employees.
Julie Bennett / Getty Images

Major donors will also have to remain on board to keep pressure on al-Shabaab, even as much of their attention and resources turn to Ukraine and the prospects for re-arming in Europe. It will be up to Biden to make sure The European Union‘s Transfer The funding mechanism continues to provide assistance to Somalia and drive other partners, such as turkeyTowards policies that benefit Somalis in addition to their commercial and political ambitions.

Lastly and most importantly, Biden needs to work with Somali leaders. some plans for the country emphasize Importance of local-led initiatives, but they have not been implemented. If the real intention of foreign missions in Somalia is for Somali officials to take control with the help of local communities, the US needs to make this an overriding priority when formulating Somalia policy and working with security partners. Otherwise, Biden will continue the cycle of strategic success, strategic stagnation and insecurity for Somalis.

Marcel Plichta is a PhD candidate in international relations at the University of St. Andrews and a former analyst at the US Department of Defense. He has written on American Africa Policy world politics review, defense oneAnd this modern warfare institute at West Point.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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