U.S. Special Operations Forces – Searching for Lasting Peace in Somalia by Luke Drabyn - Real Clear Defense
Somalia remains one of the most politically destabilized countries in the world. It has been ranked the most fragile state seven times over the last ten years by the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index. The fledgling government’s inadequate ability to provide security and functioning institutions for the country’s 11 million citizens threatens its legitimacy and provides ample opportunities for insurgencies such as al-Shabaab (“The Youth”) to proliferate and fill the void in governance. Widespread violence and sporadic famine since 1988 have resulted in over a million internally displaced persons and refugees. What’s more, the country’s distinct and decentralized clan culture exacerbates nation-building efforts and calls into question the utility and practicality of a centralized national government.
Needless to say, the United States has significant strategic interests in Somalia, aptly named “the world’s longest running collapsed state” by Davidson College’s Ken Menkhaus. The country’s status as a hotbed of instability and Islamic extremism poses clear and convincing security threats to the United States and its allies within and around the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Given the complex operational environment in Somalia and the U.S. public’s aversion to the prospect of conventional “boots on the ground,” the choice to deploy Special Operations Forces (SOF) in pursuit of established political objectives has proven wise.
Working by, with, and through forces from both the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), U.S. SOF in recent years have done a commendable job relegating al-Shabaab from a full-blown insurgency that once controlled wide swaths of territory in southern Somalia to a still-threatening, but much more manageable, terrorist organization. Attaining the ultimate political end goal—sufficiently degrading al-Shabaab while building the credibility of the Somali government so that it can govern independently without external support from AMISOM—is within reach, but will require a whole-of-government approach that goes beyond what support SOF are able to provide…