Hillary Clinton threatens Eritrea
Western security agencies say Somalia is a haven for extremists plotting attacks in the region and beyond.
Australian police said this week they had uncovered a plot to attack a Sydney army base by men they said had links to al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia.
Clinton said the presence of terrorist elements in the turbulent country posed a threat to Africa and beyond – and she warned neighbouring Eritrea to stop meddling in Somali affairs.
“With respect to Eritrea, we are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable … and we intend to take action if they do not cease,” she said.
“It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support for al Shabaab and to start being a productive, rather than a destabilizing, factor.”
Eritrea routinely denies allegations of supporting rebels in Somalia.
Ahmed said Eritrea still had an opportunity to correct its behaviour.
The United States has offered military aid to his administration in recent months, including more than 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition, as it fights al Shabaab.
Clinton said Washington had given $US150 million to Somalia over the past two years, and would provide additional funds.
No US troops
Washington has also offered training for security forces and logistical help.
Before meeting Ahmed, Clinton laid a wreath at the site of the US embassy bombing in Nairobi in 1998.
She also met survivors of the blast that killed 218 people, and said visiting the memorial was an opportunity to renew US resolve to fight against terrorism.
“Certainly if al Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al Qaeda and other terrorist actors, it would be a threat to the United States,” Clinton said.
The Obama administration has ruled out sending US forces to help Ahmed’s government fight the insurgents.
The last US involvement in Somalia – during the presidency of Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton – ended in shambles.
Eighteen US soldiers were killed in a battle in Mogadishu in October 1993, marking the beginning of the eventual withdrawal of a US-UN peacekeeping force from Somalia.
Clinton said Washington supported the African Union peacekeeping force deployed in the Somali capital, and that it saw Ahmed’s government as the best hope for some time for a return to stability and the possibility of progress.
Ahmed was elected in January under a UN-brokered process that was Somalia’s 15th attempt to set up a central government since 1991.
“Was it a perfect election? Of course not, but the legitimacy of his election is something we want to support,” Clinton told a meeting earlier at the University of Nairobi.
“Our goal is to try and help create conditions of stability.”
Her talks with Sharif also covered a rise in piracy in Somalia’s coastal waters – vital shipping lanes linking Asia and Europe.
The area has become a focus of pirates who have made off with countless millions of dollars in ransom from hijacking vessels, including US-flagged ships.
Pirates are expected to step up attacks on ships off Somalia’s coast in the coming months as the end of the monsoon season brings better weather.