WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Piracy off its shores has made Somalia an early challenge for the Obama administration, which is grappling to devise a new strategy that will not replicate past failed U.S. policies in the Horn of Africa.
The immediate goal, say U.S. officials, is to bolster Somalia's new government and its moderate Islamist president, seen by many as the best hope of bringing stability to the lawless country after 18 years of turmoil.
As a starting point, the United States plans to help fund the country's nascent security force. An overall review of U.S. strategy is looking at what else Washington could do to stabilize the capital Mogadishu and surrounding areas while at the same time tackling the piracy scourge.
But if the United States is too public in its support of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, it could backfire and embolden hardliners, with the new leader being branded as Washington's puppet.
"When the United States embraces a government in Somalia, we de-legitimize it. It is this awful sort of double-edged sword," a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters.
The State Department's key Africa diplomat, acting Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Carter, said Washington had learned from its mistakes of the 1990s when a peacekeeping mission ended in shambles and U.S. forces withdrew...more...http://uk.reuters.com/article/usTopNews/idUKTRE53K3CN20090421