At the beginning of December, the American State Department announced the return of US delegates to their embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia.The decision to move from Kenya to the capital of Somalia follows over two decades of American diplomats operating externally from Somalia, having been forced to retreat from the country in March 1994. Presently, Somalia is suffering from sporadic and consistent attacks from the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The country plans to hold elections in the very near future and has suffered from political instability from conflict between those running for office. AMISOM have also began to withdraw from Somalia, with a plan to be fully extracted by the end of 2019. The US State Department has therefore sought to reinstate itself within the capital to retain an American presence and the ability to fulfil it’s Global War on Terror mission.
American diplomats were airlifted out of Somalia from the 5th to the 11th January 1991 in an operation formally codenamed Operation Eastern Exit. 281 individuals were evacuated during the few days. They were evacuated as a result of the rise of violence within the region. Al-Shabaab’s power had grown significantly and the threat was deemed too grate to continue to operate within Mogadishu.
The present political instability within Somalia’s capital concerns the US State Department because it impedes America’s conduct through the Global War on Terror (GWoT). Current ant-terrorist strategy involves attracting key al-Shabaab elite to defer from their group and supply information to America and the Somali government. However, it has proven difficult for America to attract individuals deferring as they lacked a means of communication through the embassy.
Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the US department of State stated: “Our return demonstrates the United State’s commitment to further advance stability, democracy and economic development that are in the interest of both nations”. This is following the World Bank’s approval of an $80 million loan to the government of Somalia in September. Global interaction with Somalia has increased recently. The motivations behind the loan and interactions have been to advance stability within Somalia. The international attack on the terrorist group al-Shabaab has intensified recently, with over 37 US-Led airstrikes this year.
The rise in international activity can be attributed to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)’s intention to withdraw from the country in 2019. The decision made by the international peace-keeping organisation has caused concern from other international groups including America, NATO, Ethiopia and Kenya because their departure will leave a large power vacuum that could potentially be exploited by al-Shabaab. Numerous International countries including America lack confidence in Somalia’s fragile government’s capability at repelling an al-Shabaab-led rebellion. Countries including America and Ethiopia have therefore taken active and proxy operations to retain an influence within Somalia. An embassy in Somalia would allow America to retain a direct, physical link with the Somali government and would also allow for a faster and more efficient methods of reporting present events. Currently, the United States operates within Kenya and therefore crucial information takes longer to reach American diplomats. Having an embassy in Somalia would allow for faster reporting.
The announcement comes with both anticipation and concern. The embassy will be key in monitoring the newly expanding Somali government and will provide Somalia with the means to directly combat al-Shabaab. The American government can monitor the significant economic injection, to ensure that corruption doesn’t impede various international actor’s investments. However, America is also exacerbating the situation. As witnessed in the 1990’s, America’s involvement in Somalia has not been consistently successful or popular. The instalment of an American embassy will most definitely impact the Somalia conflict, American staff are entering a country that has been in a state of war for numerous decades, with various international actors involved and conflicting over resources, ideology and power. The next few years will be crucial for American-Somali relations and for the Global War on Terror. Hopefully, peace will be brought to Somalia within the next few years. Unfortunately, it would be naïve to believe that the complex situation regarding Somalia and it’s surrounding neighbours will be solved coherently and swiftly.