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Clinton pledges military aid to Somalia, other African nations

By Daniel Volman | Last updated: Aug 16, 2009 - 12:26:55 PM

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WASHINGTON (IPS) - On Aug. 6, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in Kenya and pledged to provide more military aid and training to the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Mrs. Clinton said that the U.S. will “continue to provide equipment and training to the TFG.”

“Very early in the Administration, I made the decision, which the president supported, to accelerate and provide aid to the TFG,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Sec. Clinton said that al-Shabaab—which is trying to overthrow the TFG—are “a terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda and other foreign military networks” and said that they “see Somalia as a future haven for global terrorism.” Referring to the arrest of five Australian citizens of Somali and Lebanese descent in Australia on Aug. 4, she said, “We have been reminded that there are those who would use Somalia as a training ground for attacks around the world.”

“There is no doubt,” she said, “that al-Shabaab wants to obtain control over Somalia to use it as a base from which to influence and even infiltrate surrounding countries and launch attacks against countries far and near.” Thus, “if al-Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia, which could then attract Al-Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States.”

At his daily press briefing on Aug. 6, U.S. Deputy State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said, “We're providing the Transitional Federal Government with ammunition and weapons,” and “we may decide we may try to increase that number—that amount—at some point.”

Responding to a reporter's question about a news service story reporting the administration planned to double the quantity of military aid to the TFG from 40 tons to 80 tons, Mr. Wood said that currently “we're in the process of trying to make sure that we get the 40 tons of equipment to the TFG. Obviously, should we feel the need, we may indeed do that—but, I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now.”

And in his answer to another question from the reporter about a report that the U.S. was quietly training some Somali forces in Djibouti, Mr. Wood stated, “I don't want to get into the actual details beyond what I've said about the type of support we're providing to Somalia. But we are obviously going to look for ways that we can help support that government.”

On Aug. 2, Associated Press reporters Mathew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor wrote that U.S. officials told them “a second batch of up to 40 tons of new weaponry, added to the 40 tons that arrived over the past several months, will come from stockpiles held by African militaries. The United States would pay for it, officials said.”

Reporters Lee and Baldor also wrote U.S. officials told them that “the U.S. also has begun a low-profile mission to help train Somali security forces in Djibouti.” According to their report, “one senior official said the Pentagon, which has a base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, is providing facilities such as tents for the training and is assisting with logistics.”

“Officials say the U.S. military is not conducting the training and will not put any forces in Somalia,” writers Lee and Baldor said. “The administration is making a concerted effort to avoid putting any American footprint in Somalia, which would risk alienating allies, and add to charges by Islamic extremists of a Western takeover.”

Secretary Clinton and her team are also likely to discuss increased U.S. military aid and training with government officials in all the other countries she is visiting on her visit to Africa.

Mrs. Clinton has pledged to spend a total of $184.5 million to provide security assistance to military, paramilitary, and police forces in the coming year to countries which are the responsibility of the new U.S. Africa Command or Africom. This does not include the $1.3 billion security assistance package for Egypt, which is part of Central Command's areas of responsibility.

In addition, the Pentagon plans to spend $300 million to run the Africom headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, another $200 million to lease and operate the U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti (along with unspecified amounts of money to improve the base), and $263 million to provide manpower, airlift, and communications support to Africom operation throughout the continent.

Taken together, the Pentagon will spend at least $763 million on Africom operations in the coming fiscal year.

The State Department budget request for Fiscal Year 2010, which begins on Oct. 1, 2009, proposes raising the level of money provided to Kenya for the purchase of U.S. weaponry to $1 million—up from $250,000 in the current fiscal year—and includes more than $1 million to train Kenyan military officers in the U.S.—up from $770,000.

Sec. Clinton also wants to spend: $800,000 to pay for arms sales to South Africa (up from nothing in the current fiscal year); $2.45 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo (up from $600,000); $1.35 million for Nigeria (the same amount as in the current fiscal year); and $9 million for Liberia (up from $1.5 million).

To provide training for African military officers in the U.S. through the International Military Education and Training program, the State Department plans to spend $900,000 for South Africa, $500,000 for Angola, $500,000 for the Democratic Republic of Congo, $1.1 million for Nigeria, $525,000 for Liberia, and $125,000 for Cape Verde.

The State Department plans to spend even more money on Africa in Fiscal Year 2010 through other regional and international security assistance programs. These include: the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership ($20 million); the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative ($10 million); the Africa Conflict Stabilization and Border Security program ($3.6 million); the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement program ($4.5 million for sub-Saharan Africa); the Anti-Terrorism Program ($8 million for Kenya, $1 million for South Africa, and $15.2 million for the Africa Regional program that can be used anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa); and the Peacekeeping Operations program ($21 million for the Democratic Republic of Congo, $10 million for Liberia, $67 million for Somalia—to equip and train troops participating in the African Union peacekeeping mission in that country as well as Somali security forces, and $42 million for Sudan—to train and equip the Sudan People's Liberation Army in southern Sudan).

Although the Pentagon manages most U.S. arms and training programs throughout the world, the money is actually appropriated and authorized by the U.S. Congress as part of the State Department's Budget for Foreign Operation.