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Council on Foreign Relations Report Argues US Should Pursue New Approach to Somalia

A new Council on Foreign Relations report calls for the U.S government to pursue a policy of constructive disengagement in Somalia and recommends the international community to adopt a position of neutrality, and to abandon efforts to pick a winner in the war-torn country.

The report, Somalia: A new Approach, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations says the odds of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government emerging as an effective body are "extremely poor."

Report author Bronwyn Bruton maintains the current U.S approach is counterproductive and it is encouraging some Somalis to radicalize.

"Although the TFG in Mogadishu has got some very good people in it, and it has certainly managed to win the hearts and minds of some Somalis, the odds that it will emerge as an effective institution with the critical mass of supporters is very unlikely," said Bronwyn Bruton. "If the U.S and the broader international community continues to back the TFG as one side over others, it will perpetuate a military stalemate and this will be very costly to the U.S because it is hurting the Somalia`s population and it is encouraging some Somalis to radicalize."

The report says that the United States should work with United Nations and African Union to promote reform of Somalia's TFG structures to allow it to become a more inclusive governing mechanism.

Bruton believes it is necessary for the United States to make a final push to try to turn the Transitional Federal Government into an institution that can eventually govern Somalia, and suggested the use of a presidential model in a country fractured along clan lines should be abandoned.

"In my opinion a presidential model is not a very good model for Somalia," said Bruton. "Because there are a lot of different factions, and I do not really see any credible national leaders, and I do not think Somalia had credible leaders for 30 or 40 years. So, what I would recommend is having a technocratic prime minster consisting of a council of leaders including Sheik Sharif."

At a recent briefing U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson denied recent media reports the United States is leading military efforts to help Somalia's government. He said, "There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia."

In her interview with VOA, Bruton welcomed his comment.

"I was very gland when Ambassador Carson came out and made this statement, because I think the Somali people need to hear that," said Bronwyn Bruton. "It is exactly the right approach to not want to Americanize the conflict. And the U.S should continue to make that point."

Bruton says, the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea poses more danger to the regional instability than the Somali conflict.

"In a certain way, the conflict of Somalia is tied up in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia," she said. "Most analysts agree that Eritrea does not really have a stake in Somali conflict, does not have a reason to back al-Shabab over TFG. Eritrea wants to be a bother to Ethiopia, and for that reason Eritrea has allegedly been providing arms to al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam. As to the sanctions on Eritrea, I think diplomatic solutions are what are going to be required here."

Bronwyn Bruton says Eritrea also needs to come around to take a more constructive approach to its neighbors. She says the international community has got to find a way to assist Ethiopia and Eritrea in resolving their dispute and the United States should dissuade Ethiopia from any military action in Somalia in response to possible events in Mogadishu.