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US Denies Direct Military Aid to Somali Transitional Authorities

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson (File Photo)

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson (File Photo)

The U.S. State Department's chief Africa diplomat said Friday the United State is not providing direct military aid to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, the TFG. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson also told reporters the military position of the TFG is not as precarious as depicted in most news reports.

The United States has acknowledged giving military advice and in the past brokering delivery of some weapons to the transitional authorities, while also providing training and logistical support for African Union peacekeepers in Somalia.

But Assistant Secretary Carson says the United States has no military advisors or troops on the ground in Somalia and does not want to Americanize the long-running conflict there.

Carson spoke to reporters at the State Department with the aim, he said, of refuting recent press reports - including an account by the New York Times - that covert U.S. forces may stage air strikes or otherwise become directly involved in helping the TFG in a planned offensive against Islamic insurgents. "The United States does not plan, does not direct, and does not coordinate the military operations of the TFG and we have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. Further we are no providing, or paying for military advisers for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia," he said.

Fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu has increased in recent days with insurgent fighters of the al-Shabab militia, said to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, fighting government troops and African peacekeepers near the national palace.

The transitional administration of President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif is frequently described in news reports as controlling only a small area of the capital, but Carson said the tenacity of the TFG has long been understated. "I think the TFG has demonstrated an enormous capacity to survive. When Sheikh Sharif took office as the head of the TFG approximately 16 months ago, there were individuals who predicted that his government would fall within a matter of months and that he would not be able to reside and govern from Mogadishu. That has not been true," he said.

At the same time, Carson said the long-term solution in Somalia is political not military, and that the TFG needs to widen its base to include major clans and sub-clans, along with Islamic moderates who want peace and denounce Al-Shabab.

The senior U.S. diplomat said a United Nations report this week that as much of half of the international food aid delivered to Somalia is being diverted to Islamist militants and others is a troubling allegation, but that the United States is still studying the document.

Officials say annual U.S. food aid contributions to Somalia are about $150 million a year, and that a similar amount goes to support the Ugandan-led African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM, formed in 2007.

Carson said direct U.S. aid to the TFG last year was about $12 million. He urged African states with an interest in regional stability to step up and contribute forces to AMISOM, which has never reached its authorized strength of 8,000 troops.