What policy connections, if any, can be drawn between President Bush’s latest strategy for Iraq and this week’s US operation against alleged Al Qaeda targets encamped in Southern Somalia? Political science Professor Dr. Ken Menkhaus of Davidson College in the state of North Carolina follows Somali affairs on a regular basis. He says he thinks this week’s Somalia raid has done little to change African opinions about the level of US troops committed for Iraq.
“The (Iraq) troop surge is probably not being paid a lot of attention to in Africa. I think most leaders and citizens in Africa have drawn their own conclusions about the trajectory of the war in Iraq, and I doubt that it will have as much consequence as, for instance, the US actions recently in Somalia will have. That actually, I think African leaders and citizens will be paying much closer attention to,” he said.
Likewise, Dr. Menkhaus notes that American attitudes in the 21st century toward the Iraq buildup have pretty much already been shaped by the collective experience of the September 11th attacks on the United States and earlier US encounters with Iraq.
“The expanded war on terrorism, going after Al-Qaeda wherever they can be found is something that American lawmakers and citizens widely endorse, though they may disagree with the specific operations. The operation in Somalia is controversial at present. It may end up to be the right thing to do. But I don’t see that that will have a dramatic impact on our perspectives on Iraq, which are pretty much set in stone. I think that people who think that there is still a chance for that to succeed believe it, and people who believe that this has become a civil war and the US no longer has the ability to shape an outcome there are pretty much convinced of their position as well,” Menkhaus notes.
Although Americans have raised concern about raised troop commitments to Iraq lowering US military capabilities in other world trouble spots, Menkhaus doesn’t expect the buildup to lessen the effectiveness of anti-terrorist operations in East Africa.
“The operation in East Africa is already quite small in terms of boots on the ground in Djibouti at Camp Lemonier and in Kenya. These things can be done simultaneously,” he said.