By Barry Kolodkin, About.com Guide to US Foreign Policy
Al-Shabab Fighters, Somalia (Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images)
Somalia's government has been in chaos for nearly 20 years. The current Somali Government is attempting to reestablish control of Somalia with the support of the US Government. The lack of civil order has enabled Al-Qaeda to establish sanctuary in Somalia. While the US may not pursue the Somali pirates, supporting the Somali Government restore order is part of the US Government's global counterterrorism strategy.
History of US Conflict in Somalia
As portrayed in the movie Blackhawk Down, the previous US military experience in Somalia was sobering. In 1993, nineteen American soldiers died at the hands of warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid and his forces. Video of an American soldier's corpse being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu was emblazoned in the minds of television watchers back home.
What the US Might Do
The US Government has categorically denied active involvement in Somalia. "This is not an American offensive," said Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for Africa. "The U.S. military is not on the ground in Somalia. Full stop." American officials believe that the Somalis must take charge of their own country. Nonetheless, there could be US airstrikes or special forces activity if Al-Qaeda terrorists are visible.
Terrorist Active in Somalia
Al-Qaeda is active in Somalia. Al-Qaeda is reportedly linked to Al-Shabab which means "the youth" in Arabic. Al-Shabab intends to overthrow the Somali Government and implement its own interpretation of Sharia or Islamic law as the law of the land. The Al-Shabab philosophy closely resembles the more radical Wahhabi strain of Islam rather than the more mainstream Sunni philosophy followed by most Somalis. Al-Shabab is on the United States' list of terrorist organizations.
Al-Shabab's violent and radical activity against the Somali Government, the presence of Al-Qaeda in Somalia and suspected links to Al-Qaeda in nearby Yemen essentially assures US action in Somalia. The extent of the US presence will depend on the ability of Somali forces to prosecute its own war against terrorists.