Competing agendas at Somalia meeting
Somalian refugees in Kenya (file)
February 22nd, 2012
10:07 PM ET

Competing agendas at Somalia meeting

By Elise Labott

Somalia's problems are many.  Terrorism, lawlessness and piracy. A famine that led to a burgeoning refugee problem. And a weak central government whose mandate expires later this year.

Representatives from close to 50 countries and international organizations will gather Thursday in London for a conference on how to stabilize and rebuild Somalia after decades of war. The session aims to galvanize the international community to develop a more comprehensive approach to tackling these ills.

The meeting comes as the United Nations Security Council Wednesday voted to increase the African Union force in Somalia from about 12,000 to close to 18,000 troops. The U.N. resolution also called for a ban on the imports and exports of charcoal, a significant revenue source for the Islamic militant group Al-Shabab, which the Security Council argued has magnified the humanitarian crisis in the country

The increased troop numbers will naturally come with a higher price tag. Having already funded one third of the mission to the tune of $385 million, the United States wants other nations to pick up the slack, including countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, which have boosted ties with Somalia in recent years.

Al-Shabab has been waging an insurgency against the Transitional Federal Government since 2007. The militants have been significantly weakened over the past 18 months as the UN mission, along with Kenyan troops have pushed the group out of the capital Mogadishu.

But the group,which has formally joined al Qaeda, still remains a threat in the south central part of the country. The international community hopes the beefed up force will create fragmentation and further degrade the group, creating space for a political solution.

That's no short order. Established in 2004, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is weak and needs significant capacity building to consolidate the country's security gains with political ones. The international community wants the TFG to meet a timeline for establishing a new government, including appointing a constitutional assembly and writing a constitution, before August when its mandate expires.

The TFG also needs to undertake development projects on its own and start doing what people expect of their governments: create jobs, build schools and provide services like healthcare.

Spoliers of the political process, members of the TFG who are blocking political progress, could start paying a price. Thursday's session is expected to gain support for sanctions, such as travel bans, against those in Somalia who undermine a political solution.

What to do about piracy in the Indian Ocean will also be a major topic on the agenda. Britain has offered to fund the creation of piracy intelligence and prosecution center in the Seychelles, which will help build cases against pirates caught on the high seas. Countries whose vessels were attacked will then be encouraged to try pirates in courts at home.

The competing agendas of the conference participants demonstrate the need for, but may complicate the goal of, developing a coordinated international approach.

The crisis in Somalia has drawn in many African countries. Neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia have both sent troops directly, while Uganda, Djibouti and Burundi are contributing peacekeepers. The United States has imposed sanctions against Eritrea for its support of Al-Shabab.

The United States, which has used drones to target militants in Somalia, and European nations see Somalia as one of the key terrorist threats in the world today

Muslim countries like Turkey, which is rapidly increasing its presence in the country and is holding a donors conference on Somalia for later this year, and Gulf nations like the U.A.E. and Qatar are also eager to play a role. Many are concerned about Qatar's interest negotiations with Al-Shabab.

Senior U.S. officials say such talks are not in the offing, for now. But some suggest more intelligence is needed on the group itself to see if there are moderates that can be pulled away from al Qaeda and toward a political process that protects Somalia's future.

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Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Diplomacy • Piracy • Somalia • Terrorism
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  20. Eritrean

    "The United States has imposed sanctions against Eritrea for its support of Al-Shabab."

    Eritrea is being used as a scapegoat for the failed US Administration policies in the Horn of Africa.

    Not only did Eritrea continuously deny those fabricated allegations but it was vindicated as they were, ultimately, proven wrong.

    The accusation came from Ethiopia; the country to it's South which coninues to militarily occupy soveriegn Eritrean land despite the guarantors of the Algiers Peace Agreement – Including the US!

    What a mockery of justice!!

    February 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  21. Pufdi, The Grand

    How do you stabilize Somalia? From orbit!

    February 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  22. Herp derp derp

    Nuke it from orbit... It's the only way to be sure...

    February 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  23. Dave

    Here's an idea for the pirate problem: Stop capturing them. Just sink their boats (with them on them) and move on. Maybe some unmanned predators patrolling the waters off the coast could, on report of pirate activity, launch a missle and keep circling for the next one, or even just trail the pirates back and THEN use a couple of missles to take them and their HQ out.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • cas

      Yes Dave, if the world could only operate by idiot'ss logic.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Reply
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    February 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Lord Haw-Haw

      Let me guess..........you wish that you could be Jesse's boy.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  25. Adam Balm

    The TRUTH? The only way you are ever going to stabilize Somalia is by getting all the innocent folks out of that country followed by a nice, big, fat, H-Bomb style mushroom cloud over the remaining TERRORIST inhabitants of this land!!!!

    February 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • ArmyVet

      I love how every "good" idea when it comes to international relations in these forums is to drop a nuke and be done with it. Cause I mean hell, that wouldn't slightly unnerve China or Russia since we disagree with them on a number of issues. Brilliant plan, you should be like a General or something.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • Lord Haw-Haw

      I'm all for it – providing we strap your sorry, fat ass to it, ala Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove".

      February 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  26. Mmmmm

    "The problem with Somalia is that it's full of Somalis." Edward Longshanks' evil twin

    Build em a bridge to Afghanistan so all these tribal illiterates can read the Koran and kill each other in the name of peace.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  27. Ethiopiawiw

    What makes you guys think that all parties want a stable Somalia? Here's why Somalia will not stabilize; Meles Zenawi the Ethiopian dictator and favored ally in the region wouldn't want that! Why would he? After all it gets him recognition as an ally and anyways a calm Somalia would be strategically more important than poor land locked Ethiopia. So Meles Zenawi will always insure a little chaos in Somalia so that he can play on the fears of the western world. This will insure that he gets plenty of aid, military training and hardware and most of all immunity from criticism for all the injustices he commits on Ethiopians. The Somalian chaos is a gift that keeps on giving for Meles Zenawi and he plays the West just the way the Pakistanis play their silly game in Afghanistan.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  28. JMorcan

    Let's find a warlord who wants to be a murdering tyrant and will let us install a military base in Somalia, then pay him $3 billion a month to torture and starve his own people. That's woprked out well for us in the past.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  29. mustafe

    god save somalia

    February 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Reply
  30. meki60

    a small nuclear device

    February 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  31. boooom

    hey nino brown...why dont you go over there and pitch in......im sure you would be changing the long live slogan....

    February 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  32. boooom

    the answer. nuke it.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  33. two4roughing

    Give Somalia to the Israelis. It would take them less than a year to have a stable government, get rid of the crime and have a functioning society. Just like they did in 1948.

    February 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • bully state

      Isreal only functions with the financial aid and other support from the USA. Take away U.S. support and the Isrealies will be throwing rocks and pipe bombs just like the indigenous people they seek to exterminate. Genocide is only wrong if it takes place against Jewish people. All other people are fit to be wiped out by them. The U.S. needs to stop supporting bullies everywhere.

      February 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • Lord Haw-Haw

      Israel is a welfare state. Without the US, they'd be nothing.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  34. rightospeak

    How to stabilize them ? Keep foreigners out. No U.S. , no U.N. " humanitarian' aid. Just leave them alone to sort it out.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  35. Squeezebox

    The only solution for Somalia is conquest. If any of the warlords were capable of amassing power, they would have done so by now. Democracy is impossible at the moment. If we don't want Al-Queda running Somalia, we'll have to subjugate them ourselves.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:38 am | Reply
    • JMorcan

      Democracy can't fix Somalia any more than it can fix the U.S.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  36. Nino Brown

    LONG LIVE SOMALIA!

    February 23, 2012 at 11:30 am | Reply
  37. taskmaster

    There is no possible way to stabalize Somalia as long as there are muslims working to destabalize the country.Get rid of the muslims and the problem will solve its self.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • ArmyVet

      Hi my name is reality, that's all there is in Somali. Sunni's as far as the eye can see. It isn't South Africa. Way to show your intelligence or lack there of redneck.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  38. No way, Jose

    "... how to stabilize and rebuild Somalia... " A fruitless effort. Solving a Rubik's cube with 7 colors would be easier.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
  39. anna

    How to stabalize Somalia?

    Let them kill each other off!!!!

    February 23, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Lord Haw-Haw

      Aren't you about due to squeeze out another toilet baby?

      February 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  40. Guest

    The neighboring countries are all worried that al-shabab is getting help and recognition from Eritrea, a rogue state. I don't see any lasting solution without compeletely defeating al-shabab and thier supporters. Let's have more boots on the ground, finish up the cleaning and re-building will commence. As for pirates, I would suggest we leave them where we find them. If they become a meal for sharks, be it.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
    • The Truth

      Eritrea is not a rogue state but a state that does not do the bidding of Western nations. As a result, they're being used as a scapegoat for the failed policies inflicted upon Somalia. If you had any clue on the subject at hand, you would know that Al Shabab has stated they would bomb Eritrea because it's a secular nation. The evidence suggesting that Eritrea supports these extremists groups has been given by its arch-nemesis, Ethiopia, the biggest Western stooge in the area. Ironically, a Wikileaks document disclosed that the US would work with Ethiopia to isolate Eritrea. That's where these false allegations come in. Wake up and stop being brainwashed by the propaganda coming your way.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:03 am | Reply
      • ArmyVet

        You're forgetting that the term "rogue" state is subjective. And since the US is a western country, in the context of this article rogue state applies; since a rogue state is one of non-conformity.

        February 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • american

      So we have a well-organized gang of criminals running that country(s), hijacking food aid and supplies and killing based on religion. How do we defeat it, in order to stabilize the country. How do the "good guys" take over. The recognized government, be it citizen rebels or whoever wants law and order, need to become an army supported by same government, like the American Revolution, so to speak. So Somalis need an Army, and this Army needs to declare war on al-shabab. Do we consider certain African countries our ally? Yes i think so even if not formal. So we need to assist our ally, with their stabilization process. Or, consider it a genocide situaition, since it is one, due to the state of war and terror has created famine, purposefully, and what does NATO do in cases of genocide? So the answer will have to follow one of these lines. In my opinion. Other ideas? "Nuke em" commentators can keep their comments they know where to stick em. This is a serious, grown-up world issue. Dont reply if you would rather be on "Punkd or Jackass".

      February 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  41. marsec

    The only thing to do with the pirates is eliminate or deter the threat. Ships with security operators on board dont get hijacked because the pirates run scared or they get shot-not one ship with contracted onboard security was hijacked last year. Shipping companies can pay an average of 30k per float to a security company, or risk a pirate attack in which the average time held was 2 months, and the average ransom payout nearing 2.5 million USD. Payout+loss of revenue from a hijacked ship+the lives/wellbeing of the crew?-worth a 30K hit each trip. if every ship in the gulf and off the coast of E. Africa had armed security, there would be far less piracy in the region and requires no govt or military intervention from any county. can and should be detered by the shipping companies themselves.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:30 am | Reply
  42. Roger L. Phillips

    The UN proposes funneling pirates caught on the Indian Ocean, through East African states and back to Somalia to serve their prison terms. But pirates will not stop until the conditions in Somalia change: http://piracy-law.com/

    February 23, 2012 at 10:03 am | Reply
  43. mipolitic

    well we all know this has been going on for decades in somalia.
    this is again a way of deverting our eyes away from the iranian nuke threat.
    obama will have a drone attack on a small pocket of bad guys and claim to the world he is on the job.
    this is not the foreign policy required to confront the iranian jihad nuke threat.

    February 23, 2012 at 5:14 am | Reply

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