Tuesday, March 4

U.S. air strikes in Somalia

Just when the U.S. is looking kind of good in East Africa for helping push for a political settlement in Kenya, it goes and launches missiles at a terrorist target in Somalia close to the Kenyan border (WP). This is the fourth air strike since December 2006, when the U.S. helped Ethiopia unseat the Islamic Courts Union, who had taken over much of the country. Since then, the fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government and a growing Islamist-led insurgency has turned Somalia into Africa's "worst humanitarian crisis", according to the U.N.

So far, these attacks haven't managed to kill any of the intended targets, though they have killed some civilians. The attacks have - along with U.S. support for the continued Ethiopian presence in Somalia - managed to anger a lot of Somalis, as well as Muslims elsewhere in East Africa, including Kenya. Some protests were held today in the town that was hit (Reuters). Strikes like this also likely radicalize the opposition to the American-backed Transitional Federal Government, making cooperation with the more moderate elements - many based in Eritrea - more difficult. The Independent's Steve Bloomfield has a piece exploring the story of U.S. involvement in Somalia that's well worth a look.

Also, Purdue's Michael Weinstein takes a look at the record of recently-appointed prime minister Nur Adde, a former secretary general of the Somali Red Crescent who is seen as a moderate. The international community had hoped he would take a more conciliatory approach, but without a political base, he hasn't been able to shift policy much from the hard line being pursued by President Abdullahi Yusuf and the government's Ethiopian backers. (Garowe)

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