Six Things To Know About U.S.-Somalia Relations

Posted by Michael L. Ly
August 19, 2014
Somalis Trained Through a State Department-Funded Program Deliver a Mine Risk Education Presentation

1.     Landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) are scattered throughout Somalia as a result of years of civil war and internal conflicts.

Since 1998, the United States has invested nearly $19 million in conventional weapons destruction programs in Somalia, including nearly $4 million in FY2013 from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.  This humanitarian demining support has drastically reduced the amount of contamination in the Somaliland region of Somalia, as well as the number of mine-related accidents.  Somalialand is on track to be free from the impact of landmines by 2017.

The United States partners with NGOs and their locally-hired Somali staff for their expert capabilities and determined bravery in the face of this vital but dangerous work.  Their commitment to rid their homeland of landmines has resulted in the safe clearance of more than 310 minefields and battle areas since the program began.

2.     Al-Shabaab’s access to poorly secured weapons stockpiles aggravates violence, fuels crime, and poses a threat to security in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa.

The abandoned stockpiles of arms and munitions routinely found near civilian populations around major cities, such as Mogadishu, are a constant risk for illicit arms trafficking across Somalia’s porous borders.  They also fuel al-Shabaab’s terrorist activities, including the attack on a United Nations office in June 2013.

PM/WRA supports our implementing partners, like the Danish Demining Group and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), to improve the physical security and stockpiles management capacity of Somalia’s security services.  MAG, supported by PM/WRA, built and reinforced over 40 armories throughout Somalia in 2013.

3.     The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is working with the Somali National Army to successfully curb the control and influence of al-Shabaab.

These efforts help to spread security and stability to all Somali people and to accelerate the return of legitimate government institutions and services.  The United proudly supports AMISOM and the Somali people in their mission to defeat al-Shabaab and bring peace to Somalia through the provision of equipment, logistics, and training.  The United States has obligated over $512 million since 2007 to support AMISOM and over $171 million to build a professional Somalia National Army.

With this financial and technical support, AMISOM and the Somali National Army have made significant gains in the past three years, pushing al-Shabaab out of its strongholds in Mogadishu and other urban areas in parts of southern and central Somalia.  The United States supports the efforts of the Federal Government of Somalia to improve security conditions, governance capacity, and the provision of services to the local population.

4.     The international community, with the strong leadership of the United States, has made great strides in countering piracy off the Horn of Africa, and pirate attacks off the coast Somalia are at the lowest levels since 2006.

The United States has worked with other members of the international community, including those in the European Union, China, Indonesia, India and Russia, in the fight against Somali pirates and has helped to create the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to further coordinate and expand national and international counter-piracy efforts.  This commitment to counter-piracy has resulted in the arrest and detention of more than 1,400 pirates in more than 20 countries.

Combatting piracy is an essential element of the United States’ strategic objectives in Somalia.  The U.S. remains dedicated to collaborating with other concerned countries to ensure freedom of navigation and the safety of the seas.

5.     The U.S. is committed to supporting Somalia, providing over $1.5 billion in assistance since 2009 and over $300 million in FY2013 alone.

U.S. assistance to Somalia aims to help develop a stable government; eliminate terrorism; respond to and mitigate humanitarian crises; combat piracy; and improve Somalia’s influence as a nation of progress and stability in the region.  The United States hopes to continue support for Somalia in its transition towards long-term development, peace, and security.

Somalia’s success is good for Africa and good for the United States.  As Secretary of State John Kerry recently reaffirmed, “The United States is proud to support Somalia as it continues on the path to becoming a stable, federal democracy, and a strong international partner.  We remain determined to help rebuild the political, economic, and security institutions that will provide stability and meet the aspirations of the Somali people.”  The U.S.-Somalia partnership contributes to our shared security interests, increases prosperity for both countries, and reflects our shared commitment to the dignity, well-being, and freedom of all people.

6.     In January 2013, the United States recognized the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

Subsequently, in July 2014, the United States welcomed Ambassador Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke to Washington, D.C. as the first Somali ambassador to the U.S. in over two decades.  This milestone in U.S.-Somalia relations is a powerful testament to our commitment to working with the FGS to advance peace and stability in Somalia.

About the Author: Michael L. Ly serves in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Follow @StateDeptPM on Twitter.

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