One lesson we've learned over the last 10 years of fighting Islamic extremists is that fighting terrorism is easier when it's done from the inside by insiders rather than from the inside by outsiders. Building a democracy can only be done when those oppressed have finally had enough and push back. If Americans want to support a group of people willing to make their own personal sacrifices to fight Islamic fundamentalists then more should be done to support the Somalis who are locked in a battle with the pirates that terrorize East Africa.
Off the coast of Somalia, Islamic bandits and pirates, some claiming to be a part of al-Shabaab, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, have wreaked more than a decade of havoc, violence and death. With only halfhearted support from the international community, some Somalis are fighting back. The efforts of the international community have so far been unsuccessful, despite ongoing UN discussions and constant media attention highlighting the pirates' destruction. A British couple was released after 388 days of being held captive by Somali pirates only after someone or some government paid a hefty ransom; Al Jazeera reported the total ransom was roughly $1 million. Word in the region has now spread that the pirates are offering $1.5 million for the next white/western hostage to be used to extort more money and garner greater media attention. The situation threatens the region's stability and international peace and security.
The current western backed and UN approved Transitional Federal Government in Somalia is no longer waiting for additional support from the international community to do something to stop these pirates. The TFG has also been defending Mogadishu where its' headquarters is defended by 8,000 United Nations' troops. The Mogadishu airport is controlled by Ugandan troops supportive of the transitional government but al-Shabaab controls half of Mogadishu -- and wants to control all of it. Experts say that the pirates off the coast must be stopped from their safe havens on land in Somalia. The pirate force off the East African coast has been estimated at 22 ships and a crew of 521. But the multinational forces patrolling those same waters have been unable to stop them. This jeopardizes lucrative oil, gas and fishing licenses that the Somalis could use to fund a unified government accountable to its people.
African Union troops, mainly Ugandans, have tried training Somalis willing to help the struggling transitional government defend itself from Islamist militant groups after a bloody civil war that is finally coming to an end. The EU has also been training some Somalis in Uganda and in Europe but the transitional government wants a more comprehensive approach to deal with the pirates and for the training camps to be set up inside Somalia. The Associated Press reported this week that the TFG has begun working with outside military trainers to equip and train Somalis to defend the coast and drive the pirates out. The trainers are reported to be part of Saracen, a private security firm whose track record suggests is well-equipped to train the Somalis. Estimates say more than 100 have already been trained and more than 1000 will follow soon. The new training is more aggressive and higher quality than previous training from UN efforts. America should promote this new strategy and work with the UN, the EU, AU and NATO to act fast with financial assistance before the water terrorists take over all of Somalia.
The TFG Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed believes the pirates can be defeated and the international community should support his willingness to try. Many experts believe that since nothing else has worked despite implementing an arms embargo, a monitoring group, travel bans, asset freezes, targeted sanctions, a panel of experts and multiple resolutions that this new effort deserves a try. So far, UN officials have been cautiously optimistic of the new trainers. But the UN should be much more vocally supportive of the TRG's efforts. After all, in August of 2011 the UN will sit in judgment of the TRG and the progress it has made when the TFG's mandate expires. If the UN stands in the way of this new idea then they will be partially to blame for the continued piracy.
Mogadishu Mayor Mohamoud Ahmed Nur told the BBC of his city, "It's not the most dangerous. Baghdad and Kabul are worse -- but they have lots of money. We have none because here there are no Americans."
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