Congress recently voted against pulling American troops out of Somalia. Officially, U.S. forces number 900 and are there in an advisory role to help the government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud combat terrorist forces such as Al-Shabab.
Yet our guest today states that U.S. boots on the ground in Somalia are doing nothing but serving as a recruiting tool for jihadists, their presence provoking widespread resentment among the people of the resource-rich but war-torn African nation.
Ann Garrison is a journalist and a contributing editor to The Black Agenda Report. You can also find her at The Grayzone and on Pacifica Radio. Her latest article, “Ilhan Omar Voted to Withdraw from Somalia, but She’s No Anti-Imperialist,” assesses the Minnesota Congresswoman’s record on opposing U.S. actions in the Horn of Africa.
Garrison notes that Washington has little interest in genuinely opposing radical jihadist groups in the region and is instead focused on maintaining control of a strategically important part of the world. Somalia sits on the Red Sea, across a narrow strait from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Around 40% of world seaborne trade passes by its waters on the way to or from the Suez Canal. Moreover, the nation is believed to possess over 100 billion barrels of untapped offshore oil reserves. “Securing African resources is an existential imperative” for the U.S., Garrison said.
The United States has spent the past decade bullying and intimidating countries in North East Africa. From the bombing of Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 to its attempts to isolate Eritrea economically and politically to bombing Somalia and supporting the insurgency of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front against Ethiopia, Washington’s actions have led many in the region to sour on the United States altogether.
Into this void has stepped China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. Massive Chinese infrastructure projects are everywhere in the region, as Chinese companies build railways, hospitals, schools and roads. African countries have, by and large, also refused to follow the U.S. line on the Ukraine War, instead opting to stay neutral rather than condemn and oppose Moscow. The U.S. has attempted to push China out of the region, but, as Garrison said, “China isn’t going anywhere.” And while Western analysts constantly warn of Chinese “debt trap diplomacy,” working with Beijing does not entail the risk of coups, wars, sanctions or invasions, as dealing with the West does. Thus, Garrison argues, the United States has already “shot itself in the foot” when it comes to Africa.
While Garrison welcomed the campaign led by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz to get everyone in Congress on record as to whether they support or oppose ending the seemingly endless war in Somalia, she cautioned that Gaetz is not a committed anti-imperialist, but a strong China hawk, and sees U.S. conflicts like the one in Somalia as a sideshow to the real showdown against Beijing.
Mnar Adley is founder and director of MintPress News and Behind The Headlines and is also a producer and host for both platforms.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.
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