February 26, 2011

Bronwyn E. Bruton on Somalia: A New Approach

Council on Foreign Relations "In this Council Special Report, Bronwyn E. Bruton proposes a strategy to combat terrorism and promote development and stability in Somalia."

'She first outlines the recent political history involving the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) formed in 2004 and its Islamist opponents, chiefly the Shabaab, which has declared allegiance to al-Qaeda. She then analyzes U.S. interests in the country, including counterterrorism, piracy, and humanitarian concerns, as well as the prospect of broader regional instability.

'Bruton argues that the current U.S. policy of supporting the TFG is proving ineffective and costly. The TFG is unable to improve security, deliver basic services, or move toward an agreement with Somalia's clans and opposition groups that would provide a stronger basis for governance. She also cites flaws in two alternative policies--a reinforced international military intervention to bolster the TFG or an offshore approach that seeks to contain terrorist threats with missiles and drones.

'Instead, Bruton advances a strategy of "constructive disengagement." Notably, this calls for the United States to signal that it will accept an Islamist authority in Somalia--including the Shabaab--as long as it does not impede international humanitarian activities and refrains from both regional aggression and support for international jihad. As regards terrorism, the report recommends continued airstrikes to target al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists while taking care to minimize civilian casualties. It argues for a decentralized approach to distributing U.S. foreign aid that works with existing local authorities and does not seek to build formal institutions. And the report counsels against an aggressive military response to piracy, making the case instead for initiatives to mobilize Somalis themselves against pirates.'

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