From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Apr 17 2009 - 08:00:27 EDT
INTERVIEW-U.S. seeks to bolster Somali government, force
Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:23pm EDT
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, April 17 (Reuters) - The United States will help pay for the
fledgling Somali government's domestic security force as Washington looks to
bolster the fragile country's peace process, said a top U.S. diplomat on
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Phillip Carter said
the Obama administration wanted to focus on long-term security for Somalia
while at the same time fighting piracy off its shores, which included a
brazen attack last week on a U.S.-flagged container ship.
Carter will represent the United States at a Somali donors conference on
April 23 in Brussels, where piracy and other security threats will be
discussed along with how the international community can best stabilize
"We need to stabilize Somalia with an effective government that will address
the security problems, the symptoms of which have been piracy," Carter told
Reuters in an interview.
The United States and other Western countries once wary of Islamists being
in power, now see the country's moderate Islamist president, Sheikh Sharif
Ahmed, as the best option for bringing peace to Somalia after 18 years of
Ahmed was elected in January under a U.N.-brokered reconciliation process
that is Somalia's 15th attempt to set up a central government since 1991.
"This is probably the best opportunity that Somalia has had in a long time
to develop a sustainable peace and get the country on some kind of a
development path. But it is very risky," said Carter.
Washington is working with Ahmed's government to help build up its own
security force, which would eventually amount to about 5,000, Carter said.
The United Nations is also training a new police force.
"We are focusing on what we can do to provide resources to the joint
security force," said Carter, who described the force as an "ad hoc"
collection of militia and clan groups.
"They need to be paid, they need to be sheltered, watered and fed. That
basic bill, we are looking to help with. The (government) is covering it
now, but they are getting tight on resources and we are looking to support
them," he added.
U.S. strategy toward Somalia is under review by the Obama administration,
but Carter said he expected $5 million to $10 million would be allocated to
help pay, feed and train the domestic security forces.
The United States, which also helps pay for African Union forces in Somalia,
has been looking into a financial mechanism that could ensure funds are
properly accounted for to help bolster the new government in Mogadishu.
Washington had been dealing with the Somali Central Bank and Kenyan-based
accountants and others to set it up. The hope was that other Western and
Arab donors could put their funds into this account or mechanism and this
would be discussed at the Brussels meeting, said Carter.
The United States is also mulling other ways to help the new government,
including how to ensure their "messaging can get out," added Carter, without
providing more details.
The country's new foreign minister was in Washington last month to see
Carter and other U.S. officials to discuss how the United States could help.
The last U.S. involvement in Somalia ended in a shambles, with U.S. forces
withdrawing. Carter said Washington was stepping carefully, letting the
United Nations take the lead.
"We have learned a lot since the 1990s. The real role for us is a supportive
role and to be as helpful as we can in a catalytic manner so that the
Somalis themselves can advance the peace process forward," said Carter.
Eighteen U.S. soldiers died and 73 were wounded in the "Battle of Mogadishu"
in October 1993. The battle, which inspired the film "Black Hawk Down,"
marked the beginning of the end of a U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force that left
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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