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US Policy in Horn of Africa Questioned


Democratic Senator Russ Feingold Tuesday delivered a scathing criticism of the U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa. At a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, he called on the Bush administration to do more to address the worsening security, political and humanitarian conditions in the region, especially in Somalia. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Senator Feingold says he has repeatedly called for a long-term and comprehensive U.S. government policy towards building a stable and secure Horn of Africa. But he says such a policy remains elusive. "The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report I requested in 2006, analyzing U.S. policy in Somalia, finding that the administration strategy has been insufficient, incomplete and ineffective," he said.

Feingold said bloody fighting in Somalia shows little sign of decreasing, despite the recent appointment of Prime Minister Hussein, who has been saying some encouraging things.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Somalia's challenges have frustrated its citizens, neighbors and friends for decades, but she says U.S. policies are working. "I do think our strategy is working. I don't think you can fix a country that has been broken for at least 17 years, and much longer in fact, because it was under an authoritarian regime, in just two years," she said.

Frazer said the Bush administration remains deeply troubled that foreign terrorists associated with al-Qaida have received safe haven in Somalia. Last week, a U.S. missile strike in Somalia targeted a Kenyan suspected in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

George Washington University Professor David Shinn told the Senate hearing that no one had been paying much attention to Somalia until the September 11 terrorist attacks, and fighting terrorists became Washington's prime goal. "The entire emphasis of U.S. policy was on counter-terrorism, and particularly short-term elements of counter-terrorism, that is catching bad people, and not focusing on the much longer term root causes of terrorism in the region," he said.

Shinn said the United States does deserve credit though, for providing significant amounts of emergency assistance to Somalis. Looking to the future, he called on the Bush administration to use its leverage to encourage reconciliation.

"The first step, and this really falls more on the administration than it does Congress, is to work very hard to convince the transitional Federal Government of Somalia, together working with the Ethiopians, that it is critical that they create a government of national unity that brings into that government some of the forces that are now opposing it, that is the moderate forces that are opposing it," he said.

Shinn said without a broad-based national unity government, no amount of peace-keeping troops would be able to maintain peace in Somalia.