Losing Somalia, US Eyes Somaliland
CAIRO With its allies failing to stabilize war-racked Somalia, the
US is turning its attention to the breakaway Somaliland as the new
card to play in the strategic Horn of Africa region.
"Somaliland should be independent," one defense official told the
Washington Post on Tuesday, December 4.
Somaliland is an autonomous region in the north-western portion of
Somalia that advocates independence from Mogadishu.
The breakaway territory of some 3.5 million people declared
independence in 1991, but is not internationally recognized.
American officials are now examining whether the US should give
support to the region's independence.
They argue that Somaliland could offer greater potential for US
military assistance inside Somalia.
"We should build up the parts that are functional and box in" unstable
regions, particularly around Mogadishu, said the defense official.
Somaliland's leaders have long distanced themselves from Somalia's
central transitional government.
The region has escaped much of the chaos and violence that plagued
Somalia since neighboring Ethiopia sent in troops to oust the Islamic
Courts in favor of the interim government.
Since then, Somalia has plunged into abyss with daily shooting and
The Pentagon's plan is facing opposition from the State Department,
which believes Washington should not recognize Somaliland until the
African Union does.
"We do not want to get ahead of the continental organization on an
issue of such importance," Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi E.
Frazer told the Post.
The issue is diplomatically sensitive because recognizing Somaliland
could set a precedent for other secession movements seeking to change
colonial-era borders, opening a Pandora's box in the region.
"We're caught between a rock and a hard place because they're not a
recognized state," recognizes a senior official in the US Department
Other Pentagon officials fault the State's view altogether.
"The State Department wants to fix the broken part first," said the
defense official. "That's been a failed policy."
In Djibouti, US military officials are eager to engage Somaliland.
"We'd love to, we're just waiting for State to give us the okay," said
Navy Capt. Bob Wright, head of strategic communication for the
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
The force is composed of about 1,800 US troops who conduct military
training and reconstruction projects in the region.
Washington says Somalia as the greatest source of instability in the
Horn of Africa.
But as US officials mull their options, they stand stubborn in
supporting their Ethiopian ally in the war-torn nation.
"Any government that provides Somalis with assistance we support,
including Ethiopia," a senior defense official affirmed.
In recent months, several human rights groups have spoken out against
Ethiopian violations in Somalia.
They accuse Ethiopian forces of abuses such as raping, indiscriminate
killing of civilians and bombing and burning of entire villages.
"I am unaware of specific allegations regarding the conduct of the
Ethiopian troops," said the Pentagon official.
Ethiopia has long been a strong ally of Washington in the strategic
Horn of Africa.
For years the US has been pouring weapons, military advisers and
millions of dollars in military aid into Ethiopia, and the American
military has trained Ethiopian troops at bases in the eastern region.
80 Killed in Mogadishu, Somalia by Ethiopian Occupation Forces
Ethiopian occupation forces fired tank shells into a market in
Mogadishu killing 80 civilians, mostly women and children. [Reported
first by Reuters, then by Gulf News, but not by USA.] The attack began
in an attempt to crush Somali protests against the occupation. An
Ethiopian military patrol, which entered southern Mogadishu,
stronghold of the Islamic resistance, was ambushed. The population
hates the Ethiopian occupiers. Two Ethiopian troops killed in the
ambush were dragged through the streets by women and children.
The Ethiopian military is armed and funded by the U.S. and is said to
have occupied Somalia at the behest of the U.S. [Readers may remember
that during the U.S. occupation of Somalia, thousands of Somalis,
including large numbers of women protestors, were killed by heavy
weapons fire used at random by the U.S. forces. U.S. reporting has
focused on Somali resistance, "Black Hawk down," and ignored the
suffering of Somali women at U.S. hands]
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