U.S. refrains from full dip in Somalia's murky waters (2)

14:48, March 16, 2010      

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On Friday U.S. officials said Washington had no intention of Americanizing the war in Somalia, a response to a recent New York Times report that said the United States is helping Somalia's transitional government in an upcoming offensive aimed at taking back the capital by providing training and support.

The newspaper also cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying Washington may deploy special forces or launch air attacks.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson billed the New York Times report as inaccurate, saying Washington does not plan to provide direct support for military operations.

"The United States does not plan, does not direct, and it does not coordinate the military operations of the TFG (Somali Transitional Federal Government), and we have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. Further, we are not providing nor paying for military advisors for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia," Carson said.

The official said Washington has provided limited military support to the TFG through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

He estimated that U.S. support for AMISOM over the past 18 or 19 months has been "in the neighborhood of 185 million (U.S. dollars)," with around 12 million dollars going directly to the TFG last year. He added that those funds are relatively small.

In spite of those meager sums -- compared to the multi-billion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- Washington still wants to see Somalia's government succeed.

That sentiment is in line with the U.S. strategy of helping to bolster the capacity of government forces in unstable countries in a bid to prevent fragile states from falling to militants who might target the United States.

The TFG, which controls the coastal strip of Mogadishu and is protected by around 4,300 African Union peacekeepers, has the goal of reclaiming control of the entire city, which some experts said is not guaranteed.

The United States wants to prevent another Afghanistan, where the Taliban gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

"It's hard to say whether or not they'll be able to do that. I don't think it's impossible, but I'm not going to sit here and say it's on the verge of happening either," Parsley said.

Other analysts said that Washington should follow a different route than supporting the transitional government in Mogadishu.

Bruton argued in her report that the current U.S. policy of supporting the TFG is proving ineffective and costly.

The TFG is unable to improve security, deliver basic services, or move toward an agreement with Somalia's clans and opposition groups that would provide a stronger basis for governance.

The report pushed for a strategy of "constructive disengagement," which calls for the United States to signal that it will accept an Islamist authority in Somalia -- including the Shabaab, which Western governments suspect is linked to Al-Qaeda -- as long as it does not interfere with international humanitarian activities and refrains from both regional aggression and support for the international Jihad.

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