U.S. pledges increased military support to Somalia

The United States said on Saturday it would increase its military assistance to Somalia to help the transitional government restore sanity and the rule of law in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation, Xinhua reported.
   Addressing a news conference in Nairobi, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs Johnnie Carson also said the Obama administration has recently provided 10 million dollars as parts of Washington's contribution to the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
   Carson said that the funds would compliment the efforts of the pan-African military force to support a strong government in Somalia.
   He said the peace process in Somalia is facing enormous challenges, noting that this could be overcome if regional states and international community join hands in seeking lasting peace in Somalia.
   "The U.S. is glad that the Africa Union and IGAD (the Inter- Governmental Authority on Development) did take up the issue of Somalia at the Summit in Libya and have taken a strong stance on the issue under their wings for close and careful consideration," said Carson.
   "The U.S. will continue to look for ways of providing support to the TFG (Transitional Federal Government)... This will include military support in terms of arms and material resources but not manpower."
   Carson said Washington has seen widespread unemployment and large movements of people out of Mogadishu, which has probably lost over half of its population in the last couple of years, enormous numbers of people displaced.
   He said he went to the just concluded AU Summit particularly to meet IGAD leaders and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed whom he assured of Washington's continued support for the Djibouti- led peace process.
   "This is the view that is held by the IGAD states with an exception of Eritrea and the U.S. would continue to work as effectively as well with states within the region to help Sheikh Sharif ... to support the AMISOM that is on the ground in Somalia, "he said.
   Carson said Washington would encourage all donors which made pledges to the fledging government in Brussels early this year to honour them either materially or in terms of monetary assistance.
   The U.S. top diplomat for Africa also voiced Washington's concern about the continued support of Al-Shabaab militia which has stepped nearly daily attacks on the transitional government and displaced over 180,000 Somalis and killed 250 others since May 7.
   Carson said he also held talks with Eritrean foreign minister Osman Salehin on the sidelines of the AU summit in Libya where he expressed Washington's growing concern over Asmara's military assistance to the Al-Shabaab militia.
   "I urged the Eritrean foreign minister to encourage his government not to support the Al-Shabaab, not to allow the Eritrean territory to be used by Al-Shabaab and not to allow any foreign elements to transit Eritrea into Somalia," he said.
   "We hope that the Eritrean government will work to stop the fighting in Somalia, will work to support a process that will help to stabilize the situation in Somalia and not to make it worse."
   According to Carson, the Eritrean foreign minister denied that Asmara is "in any way supporting Al-Shabaab and denied that Eritrea is the conduit for ammunition and arms into Somalia.
   He said Washington would study closely the AU and IGAD resolutions on Somalia with a view of taking the best cause of action of helping Somalia's neighbors and the pan African body trying to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.
   Fighters from Al-Shabaab and Hezbul Islam, an allied faction, have been mounting attacks against forces loyal to President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist elected in January by the expanded Somali parliament following successful UN-brokered peace talks between the Somali government and a faction led by Sheikh Ahmed.
   Al-Shabaab now effectively controls almost the entire south and central portions of Somalia except for few pockets run by Hezbul Islam, which also partly controls the central Somali town of Beledweyn, the last stronghold of pro-government forces in central Somalia.
   Carson also called for urgent deployment of additional troops to Somalia to help prop up security to the war-torn country and urged the international community to lend a hand in securing peace in the country.
   He however, said Washington is glad that Burundi has promised to send a third battalion as soon as possible to Somalia to help shore up the government.
   "Most of the equipment and supplies are already in Mogadishu. The government of Burundi has also indicated that it's prepared to provide some military support in terms of manpower to aid AMISOM," he said.
   The U.S. envoy said the Djibouti Process must be supported to bring peace to the region.
   He also confirmed the United States is providing military aid to Somalia's government to help it repel an onslaught by Islamist rebels. He noted the move followed an urgent call for help from the fledgling government, which has been fighting Islamist militias.
   Somalia, a nation of about 8 million people, has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in January 1991.

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