Commentary Magazine


Somalia’s Islamist Insurgency

The Middle East is not the only battlefront in the war on terror; Africa has long been a staging ground. The spectacular bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 put the issue of Islamism in Africa onto front pages, but the battle has hardly let up since then. Case in point: Somalia.

In December of last year, Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia to overthrow an Islamist government that had taken control of the capital, Mogadishu, and declared a jihad against its Christian neighbor. The United States, rightfully, assisted the Ethiopian invasion by providing satellite imagery and bombing Islamist positions.

The American assistance to this vital anti-terrorism operation raised the usual cackles amongst some on the American Left, but mostly, it went unnoticed. The Ethiopian invasion was an open and shut case of a justified, state-level response to cross-border attacks. The United Nations’ senior representative in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, however, begs to differ:

United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better shape during the brief reign of Somalia’s Islamist movement last year. “It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work,” Mr. Laroche said. “The Islamists didn’t cause us any problems.”

Mr. Ould-Abdallah called those six months, which were essentially the only epoch of peace most Somalis have tasted for years, Somalia’s “golden era.”

This is a brazen statement by Ould-Abdallah, considering that the transitional government the Islamists overthrew, established in 2004, was supported by his employer as well as the African and European Unions and the United States. Claiming that the illegal, Islamist overthrow of this internationally-recognized government brought upon a “golden era” should merit Ould-Abdallah’s immediate termination as a United Nations official.

The grave situation in Somalia is of concern to the United States not just because of the humanitarian distress caused by famine and plagues, but also because of the political instability that has created a vacuum in which anti-Western, Islamist elements can prosper. If American policymakers wish to avoid another Afghanistan, they would do well to ensure that Somalia’s Islamist insurgency is defeated.

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