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Formally, Somalia is a country located in the Horn of Africa (i.e., East Africa), bordering Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya on its southwest, the Gulf of Aden at its north, the Indian Ocean at its east, and Ethiopia to the west. The term "country" must be used advisedly, as Somalia heads the list of most indices of failed states, being in a situation barely removed from anarchy.[1]

Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a current problem being met with international force. There have been a number of U.S. missile strikes, and on 14 September 2009 a short-duration raid by Joint Special Operations Command helicopters, on targets suspected of involvement with terrorist groups reaching outside Somalia. The 14 September operation targeted Al-Shabab.


Britain withdrew from British Somaliland in 1960 to allow its protectorate to join with [[Italian Somaliland] and form the new nation of Somalia. In 1969, a coup headed by Mohamed Siad Barre ushered in an authoritarian socialist rule that managed to impose a degree of stability in the country for a couple of decades. After the regime's collapse early in 1991, Somalia descended into turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy. [2]

1991 governments

In May 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland that now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence and continues efforts to establish a constitutional democracy, including holding municipal, parliamentary, and presidential elections.

The regions of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug comprise a neighboring self-declared autonomous state of Puntland, which has been self-governing since 1998 but does not aim at independence; it has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. Puntland disputes its border with Somaliland as it also claims portions of eastern Sool and Sanaag.

In Southern Somalia, the Islamic Courts Union was relatively dominant. Some of its leaders had been affiliated with al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI), an Islamist organization that once sought to establish an Islamic state in East Africa and was accused of having ties to al-Qaeda. [3]

Recent politics

A two-year peace process, led by the Government of Kenya under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), concluded in October 2004 with the election of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as President of the Transitional Federal Government (Somalia) (TFG) and the formation of an interim government, known as the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs). The TFIs included a 275-member parliamentary body, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly (TFA).

President Yusuf resigned late in 2008 while United Nations-sponsored talks between the TFG and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were underway in Djibouti.

In January 2009, following the creation of a TFG-ARS unity government, Ethiopian military forces, which had entered Somalia in December 2006 to support the TFG in the face of advances by the opposition Council of Islamic Courts (CIC), withdrew from the country. The TFA was increased to 550 seats with the addition of 275 ARS members of parliament. The expanded parliament elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former CIC and ARS chairman as president on 31 January 2009, in Djibouti. Subsequently, President Sharif appointed Omar Abdirashid ali Sharmarke, son of a former president of Somalia, as prime minister on 13 February 2009. The TFIs are based on the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which outlines a five-year mandate leading to the establishment of a new Somali constitution and a transition to a representative government following national elections. However, in January 2009 the TFA amended the TFC to extend TFG's mandate until 2011. While its institutions remain weak, the TFG continues to reach out to Somali stakeholders and work with international donors to help build the governance capacity of the TFIs and work toward national elections in 2011.


Initial multinational actions of the 1990s

On the recognition of heavy fighting in 1992, United Nations Security Council Resolution 733, imposed a total arms embargo.[4] There was some early success with initially limited humanitarian assistance with military units providing security, but "mission creep" affected the programs, with a wider and wider scope of peace operations.

UNSCR 733 was followed by resolution United Nations Security Council Resolution 746, resulting in the dispatch of a technical team, with security personnel. On 27 and 28 March, agreements were signed between the rival parties in Mogadishu resulting in the deployment of United Nations observers to monitor the cease-fire of 3 March 1992.

United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNISOM I), initially composed of 50 unarmed observers authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 751 of 24 April 1992. As conditions deteriorated, the Secretary-General said "the desperate and complex situation in Somalia will require energetic and sustained efforts on the part of the international community to break the circle of violence and hunger."

With United Nations Security Council Resolution 767 of 27 July 1992, the Security Council approved the proposal to establish four operational zones - Berbera, Bossasso, Mogadishu and Kismayo. For each zone, UNOSOM would be provided with a military unit of 750, all ranks. In addition to the two agreed areas, he proposed that units be posted to Berbera and Kismayo as soon as consultations with leaders there made it possible. The total strength of United Nations security personnel envisaged for Somalia thus rose to 3,500. On 28 August, the Security Council, by United Nations Security Council Resolution 775, authorized the increase. On 8 September, it agreed to a further addition of three logistical units, raising the total authorized strength of UNOSOM to 4,219 troops and 50 military observers. The first group of security personnel arrived in Mogadishu on 14 September 1992.

In United Nations Security Council Resolution 794, the UNSC "welcomed the United States offer to help create a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid in Somalia." It authorized, for the first time, peace operations under Chapter VII of the Charter, granting the use of "all necessary means" to do so. The multinational command was called Unified Task Force (UNITAF).

The UN-US agreement stated "The United States has undertaken to take the lead in creating the secure environment which is an inescapable condition for the United Nations to provide humanitarian relief and promote national reconciliation and economic reconstruction, objectives which have from the outset been included in the various Security Council resolutions on Somalia".United States Central Command had already participated, in 1992 with Operation Provide Relief to supply humanitarian assistance to Somalia and northeastern Kenya. USCENTCOM's Operation Restore Hope supported UNSCR 794 and UNITAF.

US components of UNITAF made an amphibious landing, on 9 December 1992, on the beaches of Mogadishu without opposition other than by hordes of journalists. By 13 December, United States forces had secured the airfield at Baledogle, and by 16 December they had seized Baidoa. The UN expected U.S. forces to grow to 28,000 personnel, to be augmented by some 17,000 UNITAF troops from over 20 countries. In addition to United States forces, UNITAF included military units from Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

The United States Central Command was following a four-phase program to realize the objectives of securing major airports and seaports, key installations and food distribution points, and providing open and free passage of relief supplies, with security for convoys and relief organizations and those supplying humanitarian relief.

UNOSOM II was created in May 1993. In spite of some UNOSOM II success in the countryside, the situation in Mogadishu worsened, culminating in the Operation GOTHIC SERPENT and the Battle of Mogadishu, dramatically but accurately described in the book and movie Blackhawk Down[5]; which grew from a series of Philadelphia Inquirer reports. [6] A series of violent outbreaks ultimately led President Bill Clinton to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Somalia.[7]


In 2009, one of the most active areas of piracy includes territorial waters of Somalia, as well as international waters in the area. Somalia’s interim president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, called for international assistance, but said the problem was “is not on the sea, it’s on the land...only the Somali government can deal with those who are on the land.” [8] China, Libya, South Africa and Vietnam emphasized that their consent applied only to the Somali situation, and they considered UNCLOS still to be definitive.

The United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 1816 to allow member states to support counter-piracy operations. [9]

The resolution endorsed the European Union's Operation Atalanta, with military forces from France, Britain, Germany and Greece and Spain. Its duties were described as escorting; it is unclear to what extent the force will pursue pirates and attempt rescue.[10] French forces have recaptured at least two pirated vessels.

The U.S. Naval War College held a workshop on the area, led by an expert in international law, CDR James Kraska. [11]

Several international counter-piracy forces are operating in international waters, but not under common command. In addition to Atalanta, Task Force 151 includes warships from the U.S., Turkey, and Singapore; Denmark has been part because it declined to join the EU force but did not want to undermine NATO.

Russian, Chinese, and Indian ships have conducted counter-piracy operations; an Indian warship set one alleged pirate mother ship on fire, which later was said to be a Thai ship seized by pirates.

Counterterrorism actions in 2009

United States Joint Special Operations Command forces carried out a raid, on 14 September 2009, against Al-Shabab, killing leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan citizen. The raid appears to have been short-duration, delivered by a small helicopter-borne force operating from ships in international waters.


  1. The Failed States Index 2009
  2. , Somalia, The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency
  3. Sunguta West (4 August 2006), "Somalia's ICU and its Roots in al-Ittihad al-Islami", Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation
  4. United Nations Operation in Somalia I, Department of Public Information, United Nations, 21 March 1997
  5. Mark Bowden, Blackhawk Down: a Story of Modern War, Penguin
  6. Black Hawk Down: An American War Story: the original newspaper series online, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997
  7. U.S. CENTCOM History
  8. McLure J (3 February 2009), "Somalia’s President Ahmed Pledges to End Piracy, Seek Peace.", Bloomberg Press
  9. Security Council Condemns Acts of Piracy, Armed Robbery off Somalia's Coast, authorizes for six months "all necessary means" to repress such acts; Resolution 1816 (2008) Adopted Unanimously with Somalia’s Consent, United Nations Security Council
  10. Margaret Besheer (December 2, 2008), "UN Security Council Extends Anti-Piracy Measures off Somali Coast", Voice of America
  11. James Kraska (28 April 2009), The Report on the U.S. Naval War College Workshop on Somali Piracy: Fresh Thinking for an Old Threat