Just when we thought the situation in Somalia couldn’t possibly get any worse, recent weeks have shown that Somalia will likely deteriorate further before stabilizing. From piracy to militancy to displacement and starvation of the local population, Somalia needs international attention more than ever before. Ethiopian troops who have been occupying Somalia since the U.S.-backed invasion in 2006 have finally given up their efforts at nation-building and will likely pull troops out by the end of the year, according to a recent BBC report . It is unclear what will happen when Ethiopia leaves, though it is likely that the growing al-Shabab forces will take control of the capital.
Over two years ago, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and continues occupying it today, despite attempts to erect a stable democratic government. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a group which had gained control of Mogadishu and was claiming leadership in Somalia in 2006, had threatened Ethiopia with aggressive remarks. Although allegations of the UIC’s connection to terror networks have never been substantiated, the U.S. played an active role in the invasion as a means of carrying out the Global War on Terror in Africa.
Today, the most extreme organization within the UIC, al-Shabab, has risen to power as a result of the insurgency and many Somalis fear life under al-Shabab rule. Some Somalis look back on the former UIC as the “golden age” in a country that has not seen a stable government for more than twenty years. Although the UIC was repressive in many ways, it did bring a semblance of stability to the country. After the Ethiopia-U.S. invasion, however, the country dissolved into chaos, rendering much of the Somali population hungry and homeless.
According to the BBC, “the reality is that Ethiopian intervention, backed by the U.S. and others, seems to have bolstered precisely the elements of the UIC, al-Shabab, that are most at odds with Ethiopia’s interests and may very well have fatally undermined any chance Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) had of gaining legitimacy.” The Western-backed TFG, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf, is likely to collapse if Ethiopia pulls its troops out.
In addition to the deteriorating situation within the country, the oceans off the coast of Somalia are also lawless territory. Over the last year, at least 90 pirate attacks have occurred off the East African coast and Kenya’s foreign minister estimates that pirates have been paid approximately $150 million in ransom. Recently, the capture of a Saudi super-tanker revealed the inability of international naval efforts to stop piracy.
The United States is set to ask international permission to pursue pirates on land in Somalia at a UN Security Council meeting next Tuesday. The agreement would allow the U.S. military to utilize both ground and air forces to pursue their targets. AFJN is concerned that this power will then be used to attack al-Shabab militias as Ethiopia pulls its troops out of the country. This will only increase violence in the region and put Somali civilians at further risk.
United States military action is not the answer to this crisis. Somalia has been unstable for a long time, and the U.S. must recognize that the best path to stability is diplomacy alongside emergency humanitarian aid. The U.S. should never have invaded the country in the first place, but attempting to fix the broken state by sending in more military is a recipe for further disaster. Somalia will heal itself when the international community recognizes the limits of its power in creating a government that works for the people of Somalia.