The Way Forward for the United States in Somalia


The fight against al-Shabaab is a classic counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency effort, at a time when U.S. attention is turning to great power competition with China and Russia. But Somalia is more than al-Shabaab, and what the United States does there will affect myriad other equities. Somalia, including the self-governing northwestern territory of Somaliland, has a 2,000-mile coastline that abuts the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, one of the world’s busiest sea lanes. Recognizing the region’s importance, China built its first overseas military base in neighboring Djibouti, where the United States, France, Japan, and others have military facilities. The UAE, Turkey, and Russia have or have signed agreements to establish bases nearby in the Red Sea. With mounting global attention on the greater Bab el-Mandeb, the United States has broader strategic interests in reinforcing its position in the region rather than retreating from it.

Finally, great power competition is exactly that, a competition. The significant U.S. role in Somalia through 2020 left little space for China or Russia to engage, but with a diminished U.S. presence, Washington can expect its adversaries to take advantage. Somaliland infuriated China in September 2020 when it exchanged envoys with Taiwan, and Somalia was powerless to reverse the move. One can expect China to assert itself more energetically to counter Taiwan and to develop Somalia’s role in the Belt and Road Initiative. The United States should not keep troops in Somalia solely or primarily to keep China out, but abruptly abandoning a longstanding partnership will have great power consequences.

This lack of cooperation and goodwill has impaired Somalia’s development. FGS and FMS leaders failed to agree on responsibilities for the country’s security, update and ratify the constitution, or make any progress in talks with Somaliland. Farmaajo kept his first prime minister for a record 3.5 years, during which time the government improved public financial management, biometrically registered all members of the military and police, and instituted electronic salary payments. Unfortunately, Farmaajo persuaded parliament to fire the prime minister in July 2020, reportedly for trying to find compromises with the states.

The Way Forward

The Biden administration should immediately review the full range of U.S. interests with Somalia and develop a fresh policy. The policy should recognize that Somalia’s insecurity stems from a failure of governance and that “political and governance problems need political and governance solutions,” according to Elizabeth Shackelford. The goal is achievable. Many Somali organizations—from the Hormuud and Dahabshil companies to the Somaliland and Puntland governments—operate effectively; Somali citizens deserve no less from their federal and member state governments.

Somaliland’s status must be determined, which could allow for more cooperation and better management of disputed boundary issues. Somalia’s leaders also need to agree on and implement a plan to achieve the long-delayed “One Person One Vote” electoral system.

Work More with the States and Somaliland . U.S. engagement occurs overwhelmingly at the federal level, which has little capacity to deliver services outside of Mogadishu. The United States should revive its former “Dual-Track” approach by ramping up assistance to the periphery. Somalia’s provisional constitution provides for shared responsibilities for key public services; however, most states lack adequate security, human resources, and financing. Bolstering their capacity and output would help Somalis receive the security and services they lack and boost the viability of the member states as governing entities.

Due to its distance and estrangement from Mogadishu, the United States should establish a consulate in Somaliland to assist U.S. citizens and businesses and to build relationships. It also should work with the African Union and others to resolve Somaliland’s status by persuading Somalia’s next president to undertake immediate and serious negotiations. Somaliland’s stability and location—particularly the port of Berbera—could give the United States strategically useful options, but only if Somaliland has international legal standing to negotiate agreements or consented to provisions of arrangements negotiated by the FGS.


About time the US and IC came to their senses and help resolve this issue once and for all.

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That is what is coming down the line. We just have to be ready, internally, and be ready with our argument. Specifically, in the sense of all ticked off logical argument on our part, all crossed tee sort of articulation, and of course, all dotted eyes verifiable legal thesis. As well as the rest of it.

Also, we should be ready to even countenance a new UN/AU supervised public referendum, just to shut it up all those meritless argument from the unionists folks, who seems to hide behind the bogus argument that alleges that the folks of Somaliland are not on the same page in regards to her independence from Somalia.

Or their argument that had at it, that, at least, the majority of the folks in SL, are not on board on Somaliland’s political wagon.

We need to accept that legal and political requirements. Particularly, if the new Biden’s Administration ask from us to re-do another referendum all over again in our country. And that would be just like the manner South Sudan were told to “legitimize” her legal divorce from the rest of Sudan. When the two parties were involved their political and legal parting of ways.

For this, I believe, is the direction the Biden’s folks will be going down and will be pushing the UN and the AU to do it, once they realize that Somaliland can’t much longer be left in a legal limbo. Since, she would rather have another tragic war with Somalia than to contemplate another union with that defunct state to the south of her land.