By BJ Bjornson
This story from the Telegraph has a familiar ring.
To the northwest, Somaliland was the first to declare its independence from what was the sovereign state of Somalia, within months of the collapse of the last national administration 20 years ago.
. . .
To its east, Puntland is aiming to follow suit. . . .
Himan and Heeb, Galmudug and areas of north-western Galgaduud are now all busy declaring independence and electing provincial rulers.
To the south, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a militia allied to the Transitional Federal Government but operating unilaterally is taking increasing territory from al-Shabaab.
And close to the Kenyan border, the latest area to break off is Azania, also known as Jubaland.
The article ends by noting that while these proto-states pretty much mean the end of any attempts to re-unify the Somali state, they are also probably the best chance for real local stability and a counter to the radical al-Shabab.
The reason it sounds familiar is because Dave was pointing that out right here two and a half years ago.
The US's best interests are served by seeing pockets of stability form and sustain themselves so that global interconnections can be made, and multi-issue linkages are possible. These pockets of stability may or may not be in the form of traditional states of the Westphalian model, but they are valuable none the less. These pockets are often a recognition of reality on the ground; local elites, networks and tribal connections as well as sometimes being the strongest group of thugs around who have fairly limited objectives can be sources of needed stability from which proto-states can emerge to better reflect ongoing realities. . . .
The same applies for Somalia and other failed or failing states --- working with the reality that there really is no such thing as a unified Somali state with an effective central government but there are regional pockets of stability that are effectively serving as limited proto-states will be far more successful in accomplishing the limited political/economic goals of the United States (smooth flow of global trade, sidelining of radical Islamists who have the capacity and intent for global strikes) then attempting to re-create a unified Somali state.
The biggest danger at the moment is that the Kenyan invasion will disrupt or otherwise delegitimize the recently forming southern pockets of stability.
Whatever its source, the instability in Somalia is making the effects of the famine there even worse, as aid agencies find it more difficult to provide aid, and the recent spate of kidnappings is only going to increase the pressure.
Somali gunmen have kidnapped three employees of the Danish Demining Group working in northern Somalia, according to officials, the latest in a series of abductions in the nation.
. . .
The nothern-autonomous province of Puntland is generally considered more stable than the rest of Somalia, which is a battleground between disparate armed groups and the weak UN-backed government in the capital.
Somalia is one of the world�s most dangerous regions for aid workers. It is also home to a number of pirate gangs who earn a living by seizing boats, but who have recently been accused of capturing hostages on land as well.
It would appear that the best case scenario at this point would be for Kenya�s punitive expedition to end before it causes further disruption to the already tenuous situation in southern Somalia and hope that the forming proto-states can establish sufficient stability in the aftermath that some semblance of security returns to the country and aid and other economic activity can return.
For the U.S., and the West in general, the best option is to stay the hell out of the way. It was in no small part the fact that the U.S. was pouring aid towards its local warlord proxies back in 2006 that helped spawn al-Shabab�s more moderate precursor Islamic Courts Union�s takeover of southern Somalia before the Ethiopian invasion, which radicalized the Islamists and led to today�s more fragmented and dangerous environment. Too much recent history for any aid to be taken at face value and not risk a backlash.
As Dave said in �09, minimalism should be the watchword for this, but we�ll have to see if it will be.