U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson has called for a more aggressive international response to Somalia's deepening crisis. So far, he says, it's been too feeble, too slow and too uncoordinated to have the desired impact. The US official spoke at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.
In a packed room, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson called for a new strategy in response to Somalia's continuing crisis. He said over the past 18 months, the United States has worked along a single track focused on supporting the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and the African Union forces in Somalia, Amisom.
To be more effective, the US is trying what he called a dual-track approach that will take into account the complex nature of Somali society. This will allow the US to be more flexible and adapt to local needs.
"Under that new strategy, we will pursue more partnerships with the regional governments of Somaliland and Puntland as well as local and regional administrative units throughout South Central Somalia who are opposed to the al Shabaab but who are not allied to the TFG," said Johnnie Carson.
But he was quick to qualify his remarks about Somaliland and Puntland, both semi autonomous.
"By doing this, we are not in any way attempting to go around what is in fact the principles of the AU, which is to only recognize a single Somali state," he said. "We will not as parts of this strategy recognize Somaliland and Puntland."
Carson says Somalia's instability has spread like a cancer - from a local to a regional and now a global problem.
He said the upsurge in piracy off the coast of Somalia is one of the ripple effects.
Over the past 3 years, 450 ships have been attacked. Pirates have seized nearly 2,400 hostages and have received an estimated $100 million in ransom. But Carson says the problem is not in the waters.
"Somali's piracy problem stems from instability and conflict on the land not the problems at sea," said Carson.
He says although the U.S. will continue to back the Transitional Federal Government headed by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, change must take place.
"The TFG must do more to help itself," he said. "It must move beyond being a government in name only and it must stop its recurrent cycle of internal political fighting."
He says the repeated leadership changes at the top of the TFG have undermined its credibility among many Somalis.