Somali Foreign Minister Touts Anti-Islamist Offensive

Daily News Article   —   Posted on April 28, 2008

(by Eli Lake, April 28, 2008, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – Somalia’s transitional federal government is looking to emulate the counterinsurgency model employed by General David Petraeus in Iraq in its fight against Islamic supremacists who have made a base in southern Somalia.

In an interview with The New York Sun, the Somali foreign minister, Ali Ahmed Jama, said he was hoping to emulate “the Anbar model,” referring to the successful strategy pursued by the Marines in the Sunni desert province in 2007 that bolstered the tribal rebellion against Al Qaeda.

“We are looking now for international support for a process that works with moderates within the Islamic Courts Union,” Mr. Jama said. Last week, Somalia’s president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, made an impassioned plea to the U.N. Security Council for such support and for lifting an arms embargo that Mr. Jama says the Islamist insurgency’s allies openly violate.

For America, the policy toward Somalia has been bifurcated. President Bush applauded Ethiopia’s decision on Christmas Eve 2006 to send its army into Somalia and oust the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu. American special forces also participated in that operation. To this day, the Transitional Federal Government controls their country’s capital.

But the Bush administration has not yet recognized the transitional government as the government of Somalia, nor has much aid been forthcoming to President Ahmed’s regime.

Mr. Jama last week said, “It will be difficult for the next president to show the kind of commitment of President Bush to Africa and Somalia.” That said, he also stressed that he did not expect America’s commitment to ousting Islamist terrorists from his country to diminish with the next president. “We think all three major candidates will be committed to this. It is an enduring national interest.”

He added, “These extremist forces are not only threatening the United States but other parts of the world. We are the victims as much as the United States by these radicals.”

One reason for that is that possibly three of the plotters of Al Qaeda’s 1998 attacks on America’s embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are believed to be residing today in the southern part of Somalia. They include Hassan Dahir Aweys, Fazil Abdullah Mohammad, or Harun, and Abu Tala al-Sudani. These men were likely the target of a June 2007 air strike in southern Somalia, but it is unclear whether they survived.

Mr. Jama would not get into details about the Al Qaeda suspects. But he did say, “We know the general area where they are, but it is difficult to operate in this area. There is a lot of cooperation between us and the U.S. on this.”

Mr. Jama explained last week that the Islamic Courts Union was “an umbrella for many organizations.” He added, “We believe we can get many of them to join the government in order to isolate the extremists.”

Mr. Jama said that recent intelligence had confirmed that a Swedish and Canadian national had traveled in the last year to Somalia to fight with the insurgency against the government. He would not say whether any American nationals had been captured.

Al Qaeda’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has called on Muslims to join the fight against the transitional government. On Friday, the spokesman for the Islamic Courts Union, Sheik Ibrahim Suley, announced that dozens of Somali soldiers had joined the insurgency during the weekend in fighting.

Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.

Questions

1. a) List the countries and ocean that border Somalia. (For a map, go to WorldAtlas.com.)
b) What is the capital of Somalia?
c) Who is the president of Somalia?

2. a) Define emulate.
b) What does Somalia’s government want to emulate?

3. a) What is the Islamic Courts Union? (Read the “Background on Somalia” below the questions.)
b) What did President Ahmed ask the U.N. Security Council to do last week?

4. a) Define bifurcated as used in paragraph 4.
b) How has the U.S. bifurcated its policy toward Somalia?

5. What did Somali foreign minister Jama say about the Islamic extremists/al Qaeda who are operating out of Somalia under the cover of the Islamic Courts Union?

6. What did Mr. Jama say about the Islamic Courts Union members who are not Islamic extremists?

7. What information provided in the article confirms that al Qaeda is operating in or with the ICU?

 


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Background

BACKGROUND ON SOMALIA:

  • In 2006, an Islamist group The Islamic Courts Union (ICU), with suspected ties to al-Qaeda, ousted the Somali transitional government and took control of most of the country. 
  • The ICU imposed Sharia (Islamic) law on Somalia.
  • On December 28, 2006 the Somali and Ethiopian militaries attacked the ICU militants and forced them out of Mogadishu. 
  • Somali Prime Minister Ghedi has offered an amnesty to Islamist fighters who handed over their weapons, saying they had been “misled by international terrorists”.  However he stressed that there would be no amnesty for leaders of the ICU.

Resources

Read about the ICU and the Somali transition government at:

-the CIA World FactBook – read the “Background” paragraph under the map at cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

-the Council on Foreign Relations website at cfr.org/publication/11234