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Analysis: Probing the Somali Hornets Nest

Council on Foreign Relations

December 1, 2006
Prepared by: Eben Kaplan

The UN Security Council has agreed to consider strengthening its ban on weapons shipments to Somalia following a damning report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia detailing gross violations. Earlier in the week, the United States appeared poised to table a resolution calling for a regional peacekeeping force (VOA), something that would require a loosening of the arms restrictions. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States is “still in consultation” (Reuters) on such a resolution. State Department Spokesman Tom Casey explained, “Our end goal is establishing a reasonable security and a functioning government for the people of Somalia.” But experts say a peacekeeping force would do just the opposite. The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued an alert Monday, cautioning “The consequence of an ill-considered intervention is likely to be more conflict.”

Somalia’s strife has deep roots. For fifteen years, anarchy has reigned in the nation on the tip of Africa’s Horn. But in the last year, a power group of Islamists ousted the warlords who traditionally wielded power. The Islamists are now threatening to overrun the country’s ineffectual, but internationally-recognized, transitional government. They have imposed sharia law and brought a degree of stability to the war-torn nation. But not everyone is happy with the change. Many observers describe the Islamists as an African Taliban (National Review Online), and suggest the country is fast becoming a terrorist breeding ground. On Wednesday, the head of the State Department’s Africa Bureau told reporters that members of al-Qaeda are operating inside Somalia in “great comfort.” Journalist and blogger Douglas Farah applauds the United States for finally acknowledging this situation, but says the current U.S. tack “in reality, is not a policy.”

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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