Last month, news reports revealed that the administration was “secretly supporting secular warlords” in Somalia against Islamic militias as a way to “crack down on terrorism” in East Africa. Some of these secular warlords “reportedly fought against the United States in 1993.”
The Islamic groups have since taken Mogadishu and are “consolidating their hold over a large swath of Somalia.” Some American officials believe our actions “thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize.”
Having seen their policy fail, the administration is now “preparing for a more diplomatic kind of intervention“:
On Thursday, the US will initiate a “Somalia contact group” of interested countries and organizations to begin deliberating on how the international community can help stabilize what experts consider to be a “failed state.” The tone suggests a carefully revised US position on Somalia, analysts say. The broader lesson, they add, may be that instead of rejecting Islamist political groups outright, the US will have to do more to differentiate friend from foe within Islamist political movements.
“It sounds like Plan A didn’t work, so we’d better try Plan B,” says Jim Bishop, who was the last US ambassador to Somalia, before the US evacuated its embassy there in 1991. [...] “Of course, we want stability and we don’t want to see a terrorist haven there, but discussion and finding a compromise is better than Plan A.”
Leave it to the Bush administration to set aside diplomacy as their “Plan B.”