March 15, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reminds readers that the crisis in Somalia is not yet defused.

The article notes that “more than three months after the United Nations Security Council first authorized an international contingent to go into the territory of the onetime Somali Democratic Republic to keep a nonexistent peace and nearly two months after the armed forces of neighboring Ethiopia drove off the Islamist forces of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which had seized control of large parts of the country,” the first elements of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force have finally begun arriving in the onetime capital of Mogadishu—to a less than warm reception.

Recalling an earlier column in which he observed that “while the Islamists have apparently abandoned concentrations in urban centers, they are not yet eliminated as a force” since “it is certainly conceivable that, having been beaten in conventional fighting but not quite destroyed, the Islamists and their foreign supporters could adopt the same non-conventional tactics that foreign jihadis and Sunni Arab insurgents have used to great effect in Iraq,” Dr. Pham reports that this is precisely what has happened and sketches the outlines of the growing insurgency against the internationally-recognized, but ineffectual “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia.

The piece ends by recalling a warning its author delivered two months ago in another column that “even if U.S. and European envoys manage to cajole other countries into contributing the rest of the 8,000 peacekeepers to take the place of the withdrawing Ethiopian intervention force, it is beyond delusional to think that such a modest contingent of Africans can succeed where the infinitely more robust UNITAF and UNOSOM II forces, with their 37,000 and 28,000 personnel respectively, failed barely a decade ago,” and concludes “thus what might be needed is indeed a miracle, for unless the TFG reverses itself and acts quickly to shore up its legitimacy while AMISOM moves aggressively to root out the nascent Islamist insurgency, the now-smoldering embers of the extremist threat may yet blaze anew into a conflagration that sweeps across the Horn.”

To read Dr. Pham’s article, “Smoldering in Somalia,” click here.