Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

Visit Douglas Farah's
author page at

Press Releases

The Strategy in Somalia
The U.S. efforts to help dismantle the ICU Islamists in Somalia, with proxy forces defending their own national interests, is a model that we will likely seeing with increasing frequency in more remote areas of the world where the Islamist threat exists.

So far U.S. troops for the Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa have provided intelligence and air support to Ethiopian and Somali forces to keep the ICU forces from regrouping into a coherent resistence that can challenge the fragile government. The U.S. has helped where others did not possess the capability, but did not take a higly visible stance. So far, so good.

The strategy is risky, but better than almost any alternative available if the threat is already consolidating, as it certainly appeared to be in Somalia. U.S. boots on the ground would create instant hostility, and doing nothing in an area where diplomatic leverage is almost zero allows a threat to remain unchecked.

But the military side was the relatively easy part. The strategy can only be successful if there is awareness of how fragile the current situation is, and how quickly it can change. We are very good at looking back, and analysis are often rooted in a frozen frame, rather than in the reality of the fluctuationg situation on the ground.

The support for the Transitional Government must be supplemented by real aid that makes people's lives better. The Ethiopian troops should be withdrawn or their presence minimized at the soonest possible date to avoid being seen as an occupying army. At the same time, there must be a security force of some strength to give the people what they most liked about the ICU-security on the streets and the ability to do business without fear.

Support is not always, or even primarily, financial. At this juncture it is vital that the Somalis felt needs, rather than the international community's boiler plate remedies, take precedence. It is also vital that, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, there be no paralell ministries of finance and aid set up that work at cross-purposes. In Afghanistan, the finance minister was, in reality, much less powerful than the donor community, divided into different pieces with different agendas. Billions of dollars were effectively lost because of that.

The Transitional Government must also work to give as many as possible of the clans and subclans a stake in the future of a peaceful Somalia. The ICU did this to a certain degree. It is here where the international community must have the skill to support the process without being seen as supporting one narrow group.

There are, in almost every situation like Somalia currently finds itself in, a brief window, sometimes called an "open moment," when the future of the country is decided. These moments are few and far between in a nation's history, where the past and the future hang in the balance. Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister of Afghanistan, is one of the most eloquent analysts on this topic. He notes that these moments are usually fleeting, and often not appreciated or recognized when they arise.

This is Somalia's "open moment." The national leadership and the international community must recognize this short window or risk having Somalia return to the dismal past.

Pessimism in the Intelligence Community
The Wrong Question on Somalia
Maintained by Winter Tree Media, LLC