November 8, 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, returns to the deteriorating situation in Somalia where last week the “prime minister” of the internationally-recognized, but otherwise ineffective transitional “government” resigned last week amid political infighting with its “president.”

Dr. Pham observes:

In itself a not altogether negative development, the departure of Ali Mohamed Gedi should bring that much closer the end of the tragic farce that has been, by most counts, the fourteenth attempt at a national government for the war-torn territory since the collapse of the brutal dictatorship of Muhammad Siyad Barre in early 1991. For now, however, the regime’s “president,” Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, clings tenaciously to his illusory “power”… [while] for reasons best known to the denizens of Foggy Bottom, the United States Department of State seems willing to indulge these fantasies.

Noting the remarkable effectiveness of the insurgency against the “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG), spearheaded by al-Shabaab (“the Youth”), an extremist group which emerged within the military forces of the erstwhile Islamic Courts Union, Dr. Pham concludes:

Last weekend, as intense battles were being fought between the Ethiopian forces protecting it and insurgents in Mogadishu itself, the TFG and its hangers-on seemed impervious to the ruin around them, preoccupied as they are with, in the words of one prominent Somali businessman who contacted me, “squabbling over the spoils of war, much like robbers fighting over the loot they have stolen.” Unfortunately, both for the welfare of the Somali people and for the security interest of the United States and its allies, it is precisely this type of infighting that not only encourages radicals like those in al-Shabaab and other components of the Eritrean-sponsored “Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia” (ALS) insurgency to press their advantage, but lulls ordinary folk into accepting the claims of the radical militants that only their brand of Islamism can provide security and stability in place of the TFG’s illegitimate politics and venal corruption. Rather than continuing to humor the tired actors in this failed production, it is high time that the U.S. nudges the international community to bring the curtain down on this farce before it turns into tragedy.

To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “Somali ‘Leaders’ Squabble as Militants Gain Momentum,” click here.