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U.S. Official Pledges Immediate Help for Somalia Stabilization

07 February 2007

State's Frazer says U.S. is prepared to help Ugandan troops deploy

Washington -- The United States is prepared to provide immediate support for the deployment of an African stabilization force in Somalia following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops who helped Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) wrest control of the country from radical Islamists, says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer.

On February 6, Frazer told the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs that Somalia was facing some "decisive moments" in a turbulent history beset by 16 years of internal conflict.

After a jihadist force called the Council on Islamic Courts (CIC) gained control of most of Somalia in summer 2006, the TFG, with the help of Ethiopian troops, launched a counteroffensive in December 2006 that drove CIC troops out of most of the country, including the capital Mogadishu.

With the CIC on the run, Frazer told the senators, it is essential that the TFG reach out as soon as possible to all Somalis to start "an inclusive process of dialogue and reconciliation" toward constructing a true government of national unity.

Following the Ethiopian withdrawal, Frazer said, "Rapid deployment of an African stabilization force in Somalia will help create a secure environment in which this political process can move forward and will help instill confidence in the Somali people that the peace process is moving forward."

Asked by Subcommittee Chairman Russell Feingold about the status of the Ethiopian forces in Somalia, Frazer said they had started their withdrawal in January but it was not yet complete.  "It's not my sense that most of the troops have been withdrawn at this point," she stated. 

Frazer, who is assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said that after the United Nations and the African Union (AU) authorized a stabilization force of up to 8,000 African troops for Somalia in January, the United States is "actively supporting the deployment of this force" and so far about 4,000 troops have been committed by various African nations. 

Uganda was first, she said, and volunteered 1,500 troops for the Somali stabilization effort.  The United States will follow up with "support with strategic transportation [airlift], equipment and other logistics."

This means immediate aid of $2 million for transport and $8 million for equipment for the Ugandan soldiers, she said.

“With our help, and following approval by the Ugandan Parliament, we anticipate that the Ugandans can deploy to Somalia as early as this week [February 5-9]," Frazer said.

The official added that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's offer of troops was followed by offers from other countries, including Ghana, Nigeria and Burundi.

Following the victory of TFG forces, the United States pledged $40.5 million in new aid to Somalia including $24 million for peacekeeping and economic development.

In the fiscal 2008 budget proposal to Congress, the Bush administration is requesting an additional $60 million for Somalia that includes $40 million for peacekeeping and $20 million for humanitarian assistance.

The later is especially important, said U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator Michael Hess because of natural disasters that threaten to increase the misery of many Somalis already displaced by the recent conflict.

Extreme flooding now threatens to compound the misery caused by a disastrous drought in 2006, Hess told the Senate panel.  Fortunately, the food aid "pipeline is in good shape now … and the acute food crisis has dropped by half," he told the Senate panel.

Already in 2007, Hess said the United States has provided "nearly $16 million to mitigate the impact of drought, floods, conflict and resulting displacement within Somalia and across its borders." That was on top of the $92 million the United States gave in 2006 "to help Somalis find a pathway out of political chaos, hunger and suffering," he told the lawmakers. (See related article.)

The texts of prepared statements by Frazer (PDF, 295KB), Hess (PDF, 36KB) and other witnesses are available on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Peace and Security in Africa.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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