From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Mar 13 2010 - 13:55:59 EST
U.S. Vows No "Direct" Action in Somalia
March 13, 2010 - 7:00 PM | by:
<http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/author/mlevine/> Mike Levine
Despite new threats aimed at America and growing concerns over Al Qaeda's
influence in war-ravaged Somalia, the U.S. government announced on Friday
that it would not be offering any "direct support" to the fragile government
"This is not an American conflict," Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson told
reporters. "It will be up to the Somalis to ultimately resolve this
The State Department organized a "special briefing" with reporters on Friday
to address recent media reports that, according to Carson, suggested U.S.
forces are offering on-the-ground assistance to the transitional Somali
government, which has been engaged in a bloody power-struggle with Islamic
insurgents since forming in 2004.
"These reports have not accurately reflected or portrayed our policy positon
and what we are doing in that country," Carson said.
Carson, one of the State Department's experts on African issues, said the
U.S. government has not and "will not" be providing "direct support" for
either a military offensive "that is apparently under way now" or "any
potential military offensives" in Somalia.
In addition, he said, the U.S. government has not received any "formal or
informal" requests from the Somali government for any kind of "air support,"
American assistance on the ground or U.S.-backed airstrikes.
But Carson acknowledged that the United States has contributed "limited
military support" and played "a supporting role" against al-Shabaab, an Al
Qaeda-linked group that recently pledged its allegiance to Usama bin Laden
and has captured territory in Southern Somalia.
Specifically, Carson said the U.S. government has "supported the training"
of Somali forces outside Somalia and has helped the African Union, which has
peacekeeping forces in Somalia, acquire "non-lethal" military equipment,
including communications devices and uniforms.
"We do so in the firm belief that the [Somali government] seeks to end the
violence in Somalia that is caused by al-Shabaab and other extremist
organizations," Carson said. "However, the United States does not plan, does
not direct and does not coordinate the military operations of the [Somali
government]. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia."
While visiting the United States in September, Somali President Sharif
Sheikh Ahmed suggested such "limited" assistance is not enough.
"The world, the international community, seems not to be ready to do
something serious about Somalia," he told a crowd at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "You can imagine the
costs or the needs for resources for war, and the resources we have, have
always been limited."
On Tuesday, a spokesman for al-Shabaab insisted his group is "not afraid" of
U.S. forces if they decide to become directly involved in the East African
"If they come to Somalia, they need to know that those who fought them in
1993 and dragged their bodies in the streets of Mogadishu are still present
and ready to drag their dead bodies again," Ali Mahmoud Rajhi told Al
Jazeera, alluding to 18 U.S. soldiers who were killed in Somalia's capital
after the United States intervened in the country's civil war at the time.
Somalia has had no stable government since 1991, when dictator Siad Barre
was ousted from power. The transitional government has had trouble keeping
Muslim militants at bay, and in 2006 fighting with al-Shabaab intensified
after Western-backed Ethiopian forces invaded the country. U.S. officials
say if al-Shabaab prevails, Somalia could turn into a haven for Al Qaeda and
other terrorist groups.
While Carson said al-Shabaab has "chosen to reject the peace process" in
order to "impose their own vision for the future" of Somalia, he suggested
some al-Shabaab fighters could be persuaded to put down their arms.
"It is important to recognize that al-Shabaab, which no doubt is carrying
out many terrorist activities in that country, is not a homogenous,
monolithic group that is comprised of individuals who completely share the
same political philosophy from top to bottom," he said.
The U.S. government is particularly interested in al-Shabaab because the
group has been actively recruiting inside the United States and other
For more than a year, the FBI has been investigating how dozens of Americans
from the Minneapolis area and elsewhere were recruited to train and fight
In October 2008, 27-year-old college student Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis
became "the first known American suicide bomber" when he blew himself up in
Somalia, killing dozens, according to the FBI. Since then several
Minneapolis natives have returned to the United States and been arrested by
federal authorities. Others have been killed in Somalia, according to their
FBI Director Robert Mueller has acknowledged that al-Shabaab "would like to
undertake operations outside of Somalia." But U.S. officials have said
repeatedly there is no intelligence to suggest al-Shabaab is plotting
attacks inside the United States.
Carson echoed that assessment on Friday.
"The young Somalis who were recrutied in this country to go back to Somalia
to fight went back to fight against the Ethiopoian incursion that occured in
that country," he said. "They did not go back to protest or to fight against
any kind of U.S. policy in that country. And it's very clear that they went
back for Somali, nationalistic reasons."
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