Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Striking hearts & minds in Somalia

Check out "Off Target," a Los Angeles Times commentary arguing that when the United States aims missiles at al Qaeda targets in places like Somalia -- as it did on March 3, 2008 -- it strikes resentment in law-abiding civilians.
The authors are 2 Human Rights Watch staffers: Jennifer Daskal (far left), senior counterterrorism counsel, and Leslie Lefkow (near left), senior researcher on the Horn of Africa. Stressing that the airstrikes missed their targets and "hit civilians instead," and offering a snapshot view of the turmoil between Somalia and Ethiopia, they warn that U.S. measures are resulting in
[a]n unsurprising growth in anti-Western and anti-American sentiment among Somalis who never supported radical Islamist movements before. ... Credible reports indicate that Islamist recruitment of Somali youth is growing, a backlash that will complicate U.S. counter-terrorism goals long into the future.

In the few days since this commentary was published, there've been additional news reports of dire straits in Somalia: deaths of Somali émigrés fleeing the country in precarious vessels; "runaway inflation"; and the kidnapping of 2 U.N. aid workers. Rather than continued efforts at "[e]liminating a few alleged terrorists," Daskal and Lefkow recommend a comprehensive, longer-term approach to problems in Somalia, an approach marked by:
►"ending Ethiopia's blank check to commit abuses"
►"conditioning support for Somalia's transitional government on evidence that it is no longer attacking civilians"
►"supporting and independent commission of inquiry to document the abuse"
►"meeting the humanitarian needs of thousands of internally displaced people"

(photo credits here and here; map credit here)

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