Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Somalia's president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in August and promised expanded US support for the war-torn country's struggling Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
Her meeting with Mr. Ahmed – a first for such a high-ranking US official – signals the importance of Somalia to President Obama's Africa policy. Regrettably, the current US approach may make things worse.
Despite 14 attempts to form a functioning government since 1991, Somalia remains the quintessential failed state. Its potential to serve as a haven for international terrorists and as a launching pad for piracy in the Gulf of Aden are but two reasons a stable Somalia remains a strategic national security interest to the US and the international community.
Renewed US focus on the region could not come at a more pressing time. Any scant authority the embattled TFG ever had over the south and central areas of the country largely has been lost to Islamist groups such as Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam – both of which have documented ties to Al Qaeda. And nearly a quarter million Somalis have been forced to leave their homes since fighting reignited in early May.