Friday, February 20, 2009

U.S. Senator Urges Full-Spectrum Somalia Policy

Medeshi
U.S. Senator Urges Full-Spectrum Somalia Policy
By JOHN T. BENNETT
Published: 19 Feb
An influential Senate Democrat is urging the Obama administration to fashion a new soup-to-nuts U.S. policy for the tinderbox that is Somalia, a strategy he says must break with Bush administration plans by including the U.S. military.
In a Feb. 13 letter to President Barack Obama, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., expressed frustration at the Bush administration's Somalia efforts and made clear he expects more from the new White House team. The African nation has been beset by civil war and strife since the early 1990s.
"The previous administration maintained a disjointed and short-sighted approach toward Somalia that was counterproductive and led to increased anti-Americanism in the region," according to the letter. "As a result, the situation in Somalia has deteriorated, undermining our national security goals, including counterterrorism."
What Feingold wants from the Obama White House is a "comprehensive strategy to address this crisis." The Bush administration complied with a law requiring that such a plan be fashioned annually, but according to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, those plans "addressed only diplomatic activities."
"Just as important, however, is the integration of all our national security resources, including those of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, into one coherent strategy," Feingold writes.
His letter states Feingold asked the Bush administration for information about its interagency plans on Somalia but received only "disjointed and incomplete briefings."
The letter also was sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.
Under the Bush administration, the U.S. military carried out a 2007 strike against extremist targets. The military also has delivered humanitarian aid to the conflict-stricken nation.

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