Senior State Department Official Previewing Conference on Somalia

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
On Plane en route to London
February 22, 2012

MODERATOR: All right, everybody. We are en route to London for the Somalia conference. We have with us [Senior State Department Official One] to background you on what we expect from the conference, here after known as Senior State Department Official Number One. Take it away, [Senior State Department Official One].

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thanks very much, glad to be with all of you. This is one of the largest and most important international conferences held on Somalia in recent years being convened by Prime Minister Cameron and shared by Foreign Secretary Hague. Our objectives in this conference are to underscore and maintain high-level international attention on Somalia’s multiple problems. Those multiple – and problems include piracy, counterterrorism, humanitarian response, and issues related to state failure. We also are determined to galvanize greater financial support for AMISOM from both traditional and nontraditional donors. We also want to encourage the Transitional Federal Government and its leaders to adhere to the political roadmap that will lead to the establishment of more permanent institutions in Somalia by August of this year.

We also want to underscore the importance of keeping regional and African leaders in front in helping to resolve this issue. We also want to push for greater development assistance to help consolidate and complement the security gains that are on the ground.

All of you know that today in New York City, the Security Council will very likely support a British-sponsored resolution that will enhance and expand the AMISOM peacekeeping mission from 12,000 to 17,731 troops. That resolution will also rehat some 4,000 Kenyan soldiers and place them for the first time under an AMISOM mandate. The mandate will also be expanded to allow AMISOM to work outside of Mogadishu in south central Somalia where Kenyan troops are currently operating, and also up along the Ethiopian border, where ASWJ, Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, an affiliate group of the TFG, is operating.

This resolution will also have a charcoal ban, which will prohibit the export of charcoal out of Somalia. Charcoal exports have been one way that al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization, has been trying to effectively earn money. The British will highlight the importance of this Security Council resolution tomorrow at its conference, but we hope that coming out of London, we will have a more united and galvanized international community committed to working towards the stabilization of Somalia, a international community more focused on dealing with the problems of terrorism, counterterrorism, and piracy that emanate from that country.

I’ll stop right there and take some questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. Since we have so many folks, let me call on folks. We’ll go once around the horn. Who wants to lead off?


QUESTION: Could you speak a little bit about the TFG and what’s been done and what you’d like to see? When you say follow the political roadmap, like, I think there’s a recognition that there’s been some movement but not enough – what you’d like to see from that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Last July and August in Kampala, President Museveni of Uganda convoked the major TFG leaders from the south central and worked with them, along with the United Nations, to come up with a roadmap that would lead to the establishment of more permanent institutions in Somalia based in Mogadishu.

The roadmap calls for the establishment of a constituent assembly, the drafting of a new constitution, and the indirect election of a new president, and a new parliament, and a new parliamentary speaker. The roadmap indicates that this should all be done by August of 2012. We hope, coming out of London, that all of those parties participating – those from the international community as well as from the TFG – will reaffirm their commitment to seeing that this roadmap is implemented and completed on time.

We also are saying very clearly that individuals who act as spoilers, individuals who undermine the political progress towards the implementation – the full implementation – of the roadmap should be held accountable for their actions, and that we would contemplate taking – imposing both travel restrictions and visa bans on individuals who serve as spoilers in the political process. What we want to see is that – the political progress to match the security progress that we’ve seen on the ground.


QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit more about the – about AMISOM, how much money is it going to cost to boost it up, who are you looking for to pay for it? And also, why aren’t the Ethiopians joining that? Do you worry that having another outside force in Somalia complicates it?

QUESTION: What’s it going to cost and why are the Ethiopians not part of AMISOM?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Let me start with the last questions. The Ethiopians have said repeatedly that they do not desire to be a part of the AMISOM mission. They support the UN resolution and they support the actions of AMISOM and the international community, but they believe that their presence on the ground would serve as a red flag and undermine the efforts to bring about greater peace and stability.

As you know, Ethiopia has been regarded as a traditional enemy of the Somalis, and therefore they want to act with prudence and caution about what they do in Somalia. They were in Somalia for nearly two and a half years. It only served to unite Somalis against them rather than against the Islamic extremists.



QUESTION: But they – there are Ethiopians now in Somalia, along the border or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There are reports that Ethiopia is supporting the Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa forces that are operating inside of Somalia along the northwestern border between Somalia and Ethiopia. But Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa isn’t affiliated with the TFG.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The – over the last three years, the United States Government has spent approximately $385 million in support of the AMISOM peacekeeping mission. The United States has used its money to train and equip all of the forces that have gone into Somalia under the – under AMISOM, with the one exception of a small unit from Burundi. But our money has been used through our CODA program to prepare soldiers for combat inside of Somalia, and also to provide them with every layer of equipment and armament that they require, from ADCs to night vision goggles to protective vests.

U.S. support has been approximately one third of the total cost of the AMISOM mission. One third has come from the European Union, which has provided the salaries and stipends for the AMISOM troops and for TFG units. And another third has come from the UNSOA, the UN support organization in New York.

We would expect that with the expansion of the AMISOM unit from 12,000 to 17,731, which is expected sometime today in New York, that there will be a need for additional revenues and budget to finance these operations. We hope that, in addition to the traditional funding that we have provided, that we will see a more significant contribution come from our European partners and from other traditional donors, but we also hope that some of the nontraditional donors who have an interest in Somalia will also put more money on the table. These nontraditional donors are largely Middle Eastern, Arab, and Muslim states.

We also hope that Turkey will be a more significant provider of assistance to this effort, and they have shown a willingness to engage on the humanitarian and diplomatic side. We hope that they will engage on the financial side as well. But more particularly, we would like to see more resources coming in from states in the Arab League and from the organization of Islamic states, the OIC. Those nontraditional donors can be very helpful in helping to bridge some of the financial gap which will arise as a result of the expansion of AMISOM.

QUESTION: When you talk about galvanizing financial support, is this what you were talking about, in support of the peacekeeping mission, or are there additional financial measures or steps you’d like to see in terms of developing the economy or (inaudible) programs there? And could you also explain the charcoal ban? I’ve never heard of that.

MODERATOR: The charcoal ban --


MODERATOR: So, first, is there money beyond supporting AMISOM?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes. We want to see the TFG and its government undertake more development assistance projects on the ground. We want them to do the things that governments do across the world and in Africa. We want them to provide employment, to open clinics, to reestablish schools, to open up new markets, and to complement on the development side what has happened on the security side.

In the last 18 months, we have seen all of Mogadishu liberated from the control of al-Shabaab. And we now need to see the political progress and the development progress match the security gains that we continue to see on the ground in Mogadishu and in the environs. We need to see it in south-central, and we need to see it in other outlying areas. It is absolutely critical that the development in governmental gains match the security gains on the ground. We also want to see the United Nations and all of its associated organizations take a much more direct action in delivering services as well. We’d like to see more of the UN agencies that are working on Somalia move out of places like Nairobi and up to Mogadishu, where they can have direct relationship with government officials and carry out development assistance programs as well.

Charcoal ban is designed to rob al-Shabaab of a source of income. Much of the charcoal that flows out of south central Somalia is either taxed or owned by al-Shabaab. When charcoal flows out to Yemen, to Saudi Arabia, to places in the Gulf, al-Shabaab is able to tax this charcoal and to gain the resources from it. We think that blocking this does a number of important things. First, it robs Shabaab of resources, but more importantly, it also helps to protect the very fragile ecological balance in the southern part of the country – a part of the country that is prone to drought and famine.

MODERATOR: Arshad (inaudible).

QUESTION: Two quick things. In terms of the charcoal ban, just practically, are there going to be any practical steps to prevent this? I mean, it’s a fairly lawless sea. How do you actually, practically stop it other than just saying people shouldn’t be selling it?

And then second: Have you previously made the threat that you made to consider travel or visa bans on spoilers publically? Who were you thinking of as the likelier potential spoilers, and how much do they travel anyway?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Just to repeat the question: First, how are you going to implement this travel ban? And second, (inaudible) the charcoal ban?

QUESTION: How are you going to implement the charcoal ban?

MODERATOR: And the second piece is: Who do you have in mind in terms of spoilers, and is this (inaudible)?

QUESTION: And how much do they travel anyway?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The charcoal ban can be implemented by targeting the states that are importers of the charcoal. Focusing attention by the UN monitoring committee that looks into the implementation of existing sanctions on Somalia, directing them to look at imports of possible charcoal coming in from Somalia, looking at what Gulf states are importing. There is, and has been for a number of years, a committee established by the United Nations to look at the enforcement of existing sanctions. They can now take that under their purview and single out countries that may, in fact, be importing charcoal illegally from Somalia.

QUESTION: Who else besides Yemen is --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think there are large – I’m not going to identify states, but there are a large number of states in the Gulf that import charcoal from Somalia on a regular basis.

QUESTION: And then on the travel restrictions, have you made that threat?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have indicated in various discussions with Somali officials in the TFG, and also with others – Western partners – that it is time to ensure that those individuals who are responsible for undermining the process be held accountable – undermining the political process on implementing the roadmap be held accountable. So we have discussed it. It has not been as widely discussed as it is likely to be over the next 24 or 36 hours.

QUESTION: And who are you thinking of, TFG --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think it cuts across a wide number of political entities both in and outside of the TFG. But those individuals who are in government and who have responsibility for implementing it must in fact implement the roadmap or their actions will be taken into account.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We will hear more about the need to ensure that spoilers are held accountable for inaction on the implementation.

MODERATOR: The idea is to multi-lateralize this idea of sanctioning spoilers. That’s one of the goals for this conference.


QUESTION: Could you – you spoke about security gains, and certainly that seems to be the case in Mogadishu, but you’ve got al-Shabaab still in Baidoa, still in Kismayo. Is it realistic to expect that the roadmap, six months from now – that you can organize for and actually hold an election that will have any meaning for the vast number of people outside of Mogadishu? How do you --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think – these are not direct elections; these are indirect elections.

MODERATOR: [Senior State Department Official One], can you talk right this way? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. I’m sorry. The question is: Can we reasonably expect the roadmap to be implemented and can there be any prospect for elections in Somalia to implement the roadmap? And the answer is yes, because these are indirect elections. A constituent assembly will be comprised of the plan and sub-plan leaders, civil society representatives, women’s groups, and individuals of importance across Somalia. They will comprise the constituent assembly and they will be the individuals who will vote, on an indirect basis, for new institutions, for permanent institutions, and more permanent leaders. The conditions do not exist for a single vote process across the country. But there is a way to effectively have indirect representation that includes all of the sub-plans and sub-plan leaders, and allow them to vote for a more permanent institution – more permanent institutions.

QUESTION: I still don’t exactly understand how you’re going to implement the charcoal ban. Are you actually going to go to countries that import the charcoal and ask them not to import it?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: Can you give everybody a chance here?


QUESTION: I have three really, really brief ones. One is, unless I’m not hearing you correctly, you’re talking about expanding the AMISOM force to 17,731 --


QUESTION: Why that number? Why not 33 or 30 --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s a number that was based on a con-op developed by the EGAD states in conjunction with the African Union military planners. This was a number that troop contributing and potential troop contributing countries came up with. So it is a number that had been vetted by the African Union and by EGAD and has been looked at by the United Nations peace union.

QUESTION: Is there some significance to that?


QUESTION: Okay. Second – the second very brief one is: When you talk about spoilers, could those include people outside of the country? And by – I’ll be very specific about this. And you hit the Eritreans with travel outside of financial sanctions based on this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have already increased sanctions against Eritrea. We did that in December. And while this is not directed specifically at them, we have undertaken over the last several years greater sanctions against Eritrea because of its support for al-Shabaab and its support for terrorist activities against neighboring states.

QUESTION: But these spoilers that you referred to could be non-Somalis, too. It’s not just some --


QUESTION: The last one was: At UNGA several years ago, you talked about how, as part of the Somalia plan, you were going to do more outreach and kind of block off relations with Puntland and Somaliland. Is that still going on --


QUESTION: -- and at all affected by what’s going to happen in London or in the Security Council?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Absolutely. We established about 18 months ago a dual-track policy. The first track was the traditional track of supporting AMISOM and with TFG and the Djibouti process.

Second track was a new track, and that track was to support troops inside of South Central Somalia that were opposed to al-Shabaab but not affiliated with the TFG. There are a number of small clan and sub-clan groups that control small towns and villages in South Central that fall under that characterization. We are, in fact, working with leaders in these sub-plans in these towns, providing them with small amounts of development assistance in order to help them strengthen their capacity to deliver services to their people. Equally, that second track was to work more effectively with the government in Somaliland, in Hargeisa, and also the government in Puntland. We are, in fact, doing this as well.

Since the establishment of that policy and with the Secretary’s blessing, we have had our diplomats, noticeably Ambassador Jim Swan, who was our senior representative in Nairobi covering Somalia, travel extensively into Somiland, into Hargeisa, to meet with government officials. We have developed a number of very small projects with the Somaliland Government in the development assistance area, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re also working with the Puntland Government as well as a part of that second dual track.

We believe that it is important for us to reach out to all of these subregional groupings in order to strengthen their capacity to govern and to deliver services to their people and to remain a bulwark against the encroachment of al-Shabaab and extremist elements.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) talk about (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. We will see Sheikh Sharif, and officials from the TFG will be in London. And we also expect that there will be some officials monitoring this event from both Somaliland and Puntland as well.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, is the increase in the size of AMISOM new troops, or does the recapping of the Kenyan force that is (inaudible)? Are they going to be new troops that increase the size of AMISOM, or it is just the recapping of the Kenyan (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, it’s more than the recapping of the Kenyan troops. We are actually going to see an expansion of the Ugandan forces by two battalions, the expansion of the Burundian forces by one battalion, the augmentation of the Djiboutian contingent, which is now at approximately 100 men, up to a full battalion, which could come to another 600.

We are also looking downstream sometimes between March and 1st of July of bringing in the first battalion from outside the region. We are currently, under the assistance and support that we provide, training one battalion of Sierra Leonean troops. We are almost through the final phase of their training and pre-equipping, and we expect that they will come in to Somalia sometime in June or July. So this is not simply a re-hatting of the Kenyan troops. This is an expansion and an augmentation.

MODERATOR: We’re going to let Elise have one more on piracy and then --

QUESTION: To clarify that, when you say 17,731, is that not including the Kenyans? That’s in addition, or is that also included?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That 17,731 will include the re-hatting of the Kenyan forces who are currently on the ground there now.

QUESTION: Which are about 4,000 (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Which are approximately 4,000, according to the Kenyans.

QUESTION: So the whole 5,000 (inaudible)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) just to clarify? There were about 9,000 troops plus the Kenyan troops that were re-hatting, which takes you to 12, and then that’s up to 17.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Currently, the current mandate is for 12,000 troops. The current level right now is 9,900. We expect that we will see the delta fill between that 9,914. That 17,000 will, in effect, be the approximately 4,000 troops that the Kenyans have committed, two battalions of additional Ugandan troops who are not yet on the ground but who are pre – who have been equipped and are ready to move, one new battalion of Burundians, and augmentation of the Djiboutians from the current 100 to a full battalion. And we have one in reserve of Sierra Leoneans who we are training and equipping and will be ready to move at some time in June or July.

MODERATOR: Last one, piracy.

QUESTION: On the piracy aspect, could you talk a little bit about whether the U.S. will be contributing to this center for prosecutions and what you – how you expect to deal with the piracy issues at this conference? Do you think there’ll be any decisions made on what to do with these guys or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We hope that there will, in fact, be a full discussion on this issue. We support the establishment of a piracy center in the Seychelles and we applaud what the Seychellois Government has done in making its country available to be the host nation for this anti-piracy organization. We also appreciate the fact that Seychelles is one of the three states in East Africa that has shown a consistent willingness to take, prosecute, and jail pirates.

We also hope coming out of this conference that there will be a reaffirmation and support for the UN plan to build prisons inside of Puntland and Somalia to house pirates who have been prosecuted and convicted in other countries, including Seychelles and Kenya and Mauritius, and that once they’re convicted, they can be sent back home to be tried.

We also hope that there will be a full discussion and encouragement of countries to take and prosecute pirates, especially those countries whose boats are – whose boats are owned by national companies or countries whose – who flag boats, who own boats and who have citizen who crew boats. We hope that they – we hope that they will take and prosecute Somali pirates. Traditionally, not very many countries have been willing to take Somali pirates even though these Somali pirates have attacked vessels that are owned, flagged, or crewed by nationals from those countries. We hope more countries will show a willingness to do this.

MODERATOR: Thank you, [Senior State Department Official.]

QUESTION: (Inaudible) your assessment of al-Shabaab is right now (inaudible) strength and their (inaudible)?

MODERATOR: And then we’re going to end, okay?


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There’s no question that al-Shabaab has been significantly weakened over the last two years, in large measure to the security – aggressive security posture taken by AMISOM, Ugandans, and Burundians in particular. In the last year, they have been completely removed from the core of Mogadishu and have been driven further north beyond the university.

Al-Shabaab remains a serious threat in many parts of South-Central, but they have been put under enormous pressure in the North-West by Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, supported by Ethiopia, and under pressure in the south by the incursion of the Kenyans. They have not been defeated, but they have been significantly degraded and they are under continuing pressure. We hope that the augmentation of AMISOM will lead to greater pressure on them and greater fragmentation of the organization.

Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization whose leadership at the very top has shown it wants to be and is now affiliated with al-Qaida. But even there, over the last year and a half, we have seen the senior leaders of al-Qaida in East Africa killed. We have seen the loss of the two top people in al-Qaida East Africa, two individuals who were associated with the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and also in Dar Es Salaam in August of 1998, with the destruction of the Paradise Hotel in November of 2002 in Mumbasa. The individuals associated with that have, in fact, been killed.

So there has been progress. They have not been defeated, but they certainly have been significantly degraded.

MODERATOR: Good. Thanks very much, [Senior State Department Official One.]

PRN: 2012/ T60-01