End the US military presence in Somalia
It was reported this month that President TrumpDonald Trump’s border protection unit used terrorist database to search for journalists: House panel report rejects claims of executive privilege by former Trump aide Navarro Trump struggles to erase the GOP field in the race for the North Carolina Senate MORE called for a plan to withdraw US troops from Somalia, the poverty-stricken and war-stricken East African nation, where around 700 US troops are stationed. The fate of those who live in Somalia is certainly tragic, as conflicts, dysfunctions and terrorism have made it the land of international relief efforts and non-governmental aid organizations since the end of the Cold War. But the costs and risks to the United States for our military mission outweigh any national security benefits.
The withdrawal of US troops from Somalia must be fully carried out.
There is a higher level of sensitivity and awareness in the United States about our military and diplomatic involvement in Somalia due to extreme poverty and conflict. Drought and famine are estimated to have killed more than a quarter of a million Somalis between 2010 and 2012 and continue to pose a serious threat to the country. Since 1991, an estimated 350,000 to 1,000,000 Somalis have been killed as a result of the civil war. For good reason, the country attracts sympathetic and charitable public campaigns across the world.
The violence in Somalia first caught the attention of Americans in 1993 when 19 American soldiers were killed while supporting a United Nations mission in the Battle of Mogadishu. It was a shocking event following the overwhelming success of American forces in the Persian Gulf War two years earlier and was later canonized in the popular film Blackhawk Down.
Since 2004, the country has been ravaged by al-Shabaab, a powerful extremist Islamic insurgency group that can export terrorism to the region. It was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department in 2008 and announced in 2012 its affiliation with al-Qaeda.
Poverty and conflict are geopolitical issues that the world community should care about and want to tackle. But the ongoing international military presence in Somalia, as in other countries in Africa and the Middle East, has proven ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. So why are our troops still there?
Some government officials and international experts believe that military force should be used for humanitarian purposes, especially in high-casualty conflicts. Known as the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P), the modern iteration of this school dates back to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where some believe that international intervention could have prevented much of the bloodshed. This same line of thinking was used to justify the US and European intervention in Libya in 2011 and can be done for Somalia (and dozens of other countries).
The problem is, there is no real success that humanitarian interventions can explain – in cases like Libya, these interventions have contributed to more violence, extremism, and deaths of Americans. But that didn’t stop his idealistic supporters from continuing to press him.
However, the most popular justification for our presence in Somalia is under the aegis of the war on terrorism. The 2001 AUMF authorizes the president to use force to prevent future attacks on the United States by organizations or supporters of those who carried out the 9/11 attacks. Al-Shabaab’s declaration of alliance with al-Qaeda in 2012 provides that legal link for those with a broad interpretation of AUMF.
On closer inspection, however, al-Shabaab’s connection to the organization responsible for terrorism on American soil is unclear. In 2012, the core of the al-Qaeda group that planned and executed the attacks was largely disrupted, with its leader killed the previous year and its network fragmented and scattered across the region. Numerous extremists across the world, from insurgencies to lone actors, have pledged allegiance or declared themselves an offshoot of al Qaeda, but have shown little evidence of an operational link with the group.
The real threat that Somalia’s violence poses to US national security is even more tenuous. To be sure, al-Shabaab has proven deadly in the region, particularly in Kenya, Ethiopia and with piracy off the coast of East Africa. The US government has a responsibility to protect our embassies and our citizens in the region. It has long been in a national security interest to protect the international sea lanes where US commercial ships operate.
But these issues should not be confused with large-scale existential threats to the homeland of the United States. Al-Shabaab has shown little ability to export terrorism outside the region, and the smaller threats posed can be mitigated through activities that do not require sustainable ground operations on the ground. Our naval presence in the area can be modulated as needed to deter acts of piracy, while enhanced effective intelligence, diplomacy and assistance can address other issues of violence and poverty without involving our military in conflict. civilians.
The situation of Somalis is desperate and deserves the world’s attention. But our military presence for nearly three decades has failed to match the costs and risks. President Trump is right to call for the withdrawal of American forces, and we must hope that he will be followed.
Robert Moore is a public policy advisor for defense priorities. Previously, he worked for a decade on Capitol Hill as a staff member on matters of national security, foreign policy and homeland security. From 2013 to 2017, he was a senior staff member of the Senator Mike leeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeManchin faces pressure from Gillibrand, other colleagues on paid family leave Key House chairman wants official trip to Taiwan in January Instagram boss gets grilled by both parties over harm to adolescents PLUS member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee.