At a press conference yesterday, a reporter asked U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan what he thought about the U.S. “secretly supporting secular warlords” in Somalia. (The same warlords who “reportedly fought against the United States in 1993.”) Here’s his response:
I would not have supported warlords. I don’t think I would have recommended to the UN or the Security Council to support warlords.
Bolton quickly hit back, wondering if Annan was criticizing “American efforts to round up terrorists”:
Q: The SG [Annan] seems to be criticizing the United States support of warlords in Somalia. In some ways is this meeting a recognition of that policy, I don’t know that you have confirmed at this point, but that that policy was sort of misdirected and that there needs to be a real re-thinking of the approach to Somalia?
BOLTON: Well, I didn’t hear what the SG said. But the situation in Somalia, and I certainly hope that it’s not an implicit criticism of American efforts to round up terrorists, I hope that’s not what he was saying.
Yet rather than “round up terrorists,” the clandestine support the administration gave to secular warlords “thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize.”
Annan isn’t the only one who’s been critical of the policy — there’s been quite a bit of internal dissension within the State Department. The New York Times reported last week that “Leslie Rowe, the [Nairobi] embassy’s second-ranking official, signed off on a cable back to State Department headquarters that detailed grave concerns throughout the region about American efforts in Somalia.” In addition, “the State Department’s political officer for Somalia, Michael Zorick, who had been based in Nairobi, was reassigned to Chad after he sent a cable to Washington criticizing Washington’s policy of paying Somali warlords.”