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Why Somalia would make Afghanistan seem like Mr. Rogers' neighborhood for US troops

Sunday's Uganda bombings show that the threat of Somalia's Al Shabab is very serious, so what should the US do about it? The status quo is not working, but if you think Afghanistan is a quagmire, you ain't seen nothing yet.

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So what should happen with respect to US policy in Somalia? A lot will depend on the decisions taken by the African Union at its summit in Entebbe next week. Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda have gone along with US plans for the region in exchange for support, training, and materiel. Will they be willing to continue to do so in light of the fact that Al Shabab now has the capacity to threaten civilian lives in their own countries?

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Finally, there is the question of Somaliland, the autonomous entity in northern Somalia that has all the attributes of statehood save the most important one: international recognition. Somaliland just held successful elections that will apparently result in a turnover of power from one party to another.

It is a functioning state with a growing economy and a solid modicum of territorial control. It's long past time that the US stopped dithering around in Mogadishu and worked with those who are actually capable of governing in the Horn.

Zachary advocates for the recognition of three "autonomous provinces" in the region. Puntland is probably not strong enough to govern outside of a few strongholds, but Somaliland most certainly is. Recognition would allow the US to train Somaliland soldiers, and, more importantly, potentially provide a base for operations that is far more stable than the volatile border in Kenya.

Will doing so solve all the region's problems, particularly the threat from Al Shabab? Of course not. But it's high time we stopped kidding ourselves that the current M.O. will ever work. It won't.

In the days to come, look for Ken Menkhaus' thoughts on the current situation. Menkhaus is the smartest American academic working on Somalia today; I'm sure he'll have much to say.

--- Laura Seay blogs at Texas in Africa.

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