Somalia: U.S. to work with Puntland and Somaliland

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The United States has decided to work closely with semi-autonomous Somaliland and Puntland states in Somali as a means to defeat Islamist extremists.

The initiative represents a substantial policy shift and a step away from dealing with Somalia only through the weak transitional government in Mogadishu.

The Obama administration’s top diplomat for Africa Johnnie Carson said the U.S would send more aid workers and diplomats to Puntland and Somaliland and support the governments of both regions, in the north of Somalia, with development projects.

This new policy by the U.S is expected to aid the fight to fend off extreme Islamist insurgents in those parts of Somalia that have “been zones of relative political and civil stability”. According to Mr. Carson the U.S. believes the zones “will in fact be a bulwark against extremism and radicalism that might emerge from the south”.

And after supplying the African troops present in Somalia with weapons and equipment while providing training to Somali security forces, the United States is seeking to engage “with these areas and political entities aggressively”.

The U.S. would also look to support local governments, clans and sub-clans in south-central Somalia that do not back either the militia or the federal administration.” Mr. Carson added.

Although the U.S. will be dealing directly with Somaliland which declared itself independent in the early 1990s and has since failed to attain internationally recognition, there were no plans to recognize the regions as independent states.

Parts of Somalia and most of the capital Mogadishu are controlled by al-Shabab, a hard-line Islamic group which has admitted to links with al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab aims to overthrow the internationally backed central government and impose a strict brand of Islam countrywide.

The US hopes the new policy will help to stem the spread of radical Islam in the Horn of Africa country.

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