Somalia’s Dire Lessons for Afghanistan

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Jan 6th, 2012
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Anyone interested in seeing the future of Afghanistan need only take a short plane trip from Italy across Libya and Sudan to what is the most dysfunctional territory in Africa. Somalia can’t be properly called a state, more of a prolonged clumsy civil war fought between rival gangs of Islamists, some of whom have American backing and some of whom don’t.

Somalia is Afghanistan on caffeine, not because it’s more violent, but because it covered the same span of history in half the time from when Operation Enduring Freedom​ expanded into the Horn of Africa during Bush’s second term, pushing out the Islamic Courts Union, the local equivalent of the Taliban, to the negotiations several years later that brought members of the Islamic Courts Union into the Transitional Federal Government and made them the majority, to the ongoing civil war between the ragged bands of Islamist militias fighting over the remains of the country under the watchful eye of peacekeeping troops.

Somalia is what Afghanistan will look like if the Obama administration and its Brotherhood friends succeed in convincing some Taliban leaders to split off and join the government. The bloody farce in which the former commander in chief of the Islamic Courts Union, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed​, serves as the president of a Somalia, and Sharif Hassan, who was a IUC supporter, serves as speaker of a Somali parliament which is dominated by Islamists and which voted to implement Sharia law two years ago, could be the bright and shining future of Afghanistan.

While the “moderate” Islamists of the UIC run that small portion of Somalia which American drones and African Union troops keep under their control, the “immoderate” former members of the UIC’s militias try to push them out while forcing children and the elderly to fight for them, and stoning young girls to death who don’t agree to sexually service their troops.

The agreement which led to this ridiculous Somali standoff was the work of the same diplomatic corps that thinks sending in the Muslim Brotherhood​’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi to split off some “moderate” Taliban leaders will secure the future of Afghanistan. Last time around the Brotherhood talked the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group into taking a few discreet steps away from Al-Qaeda and signing on to a political solution with Qaddafi. The political solution allowed the LIFG to join in a broad front civil war that will likely see Libya end up under Islamic rule. That is probably what Qaradawi also has in mind for Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan is more likely to look like Somalia than Libya, which had the relics of a national structure that Afghanistan still lacks. With Pakistan, Iran and countless other players sticking their thumbs into the mix and backing their own militias, the stage could be set for the kind of prolonged and bloody insanity that has seen multiple Islamist militias fighting each other across Somalia.

Somalia also represents the early phase when the War on Terror descended into an incoherent mission whose purpose was no longer to fight Islamic terrorists, but to find some Islamic terrorists willing to run for office. But no matter how often foreign policy experts praised the Islamic Courts Union for bringing stability to Somalia, the only kind of stability they brought was at the point of a sharpened machete or an AK-47.

The Transitional Federal Government with UIC Islamists and Sharia law is no better at stabilizing the country than the TFG was without the UIC and Sharia. The deal that brought the Islamists into the government didn’t improve governance or get rid of the Islamist militias still determined to do things their own way.

Afghanistan with some Taliban warlords in the government will be no more stable than it is in its present form. Bringing in “moderate” Islamist thugs into a government doesn’t stabilize it; all it does is increase the chaos and destroy a government’s credibility as a source of law and order. When the machete and the bomb are the paths to political office, then there will be more beheadings and bombings than ever. The Palestinian Authority is an ugly lesson in what happens when terrorists are given their own government to play with.

Back in 2006 the New York Times ran an op-ed from Salim Lone​, the former spokesman for the UN Mission in Iraq, blasting the Bush administration for its “illegal war of aggression against the Union of Islamic Courts.” “The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability, which the Islamic Courts have provided,” Lone asserted. “As in other Muslim-Western conflicts, the world needs to engage with the Islamists to secure peace.”

Such editorials praising the UIC, which engaged in the same brutal antics as the Taliban, were not unusual at the time. Lone went on to become the spokesman for Raila Odinga​’s coalition, which inserted itself into the Kenyan government through mob violence and forced Sharia and the end of civil rights for Muslim women into the Kenyan Constitution. Odingo, who is best known to Americans as Barack Obama’s cousin, was then brought in to “mediate” the Muslim civil war which forced out Cote d’Ivoire’s legal president, Laurent Gbagbo​, and replaced him with Muslim thug Alassane Ouattara​.

The two disputed elections in which Christian leaders were forced out in favor of Muslim or pro-Muslim leaders moved Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire one step closer to becoming Somalia. But Afghanistan will likely get there first as the ISAF NATO force rushes out the door eager to turn over the keys of power to the first Taliban warlord willing to sign his name on the dotted line.

To make matters worse the Obama administration has put a leading Muslim Brotherhood​ figure in charge of deciding who those warlords will be so that after thousands of Allied soldiers died to liberate and secure Afghanistan, it will be the Brotherhood that will reap the geopolitical rewards. But that will be a larger challenge for the Brotherhood than it has ever faced before. Planting IEDs on roads is one thing. Trying to run a tribal civil war is another. Whatever takes place after the American flag has been folded and put away is likely to look more like Somalia. And the lessons there, as in Somalia and Iraq, will be the same.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.

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