Let’s be sure we understand what the United States means by the dual track policy towards Somalia and Somaliland. In October 2010, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson announced the dual track approach. Track one involved continuing support for the Djibouti Peace Process, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), its National Security Forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Track two recognized that there were large pockets of stability in Somalia that merited greater engagement. These areas included Somaliland, Puntland and regional and local anti-al-Shabaab groups throughout south/central Somalia. Track two included additional support for Somali civil society groups and clan leaders.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Don Yamamoto testified before Congress in mid-2011 that track one remained critical to political and security progress in Mogadishu and ultimately the rest of Somalia. He said the United States would continue to support the TFG’s political progress in the coming year. He added that the United States expected the TFG would bring into the political process Puntland, Galmudug, Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a (ASWJ) and other Somali stakeholders.
Concerning track two, Yamamoto said Washington had expanded its diplomatic outreach with regional authorities such as those in Puntland, Galmudug and other districts. In addition, it had increased travel by U.S. officials to Somaliland and Puntland, which reinforced the U.S. commitment “to Somalia, the Somali people, and the Dual Track policy.”
Under track one, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) emphasized collaboration with the TFG and Transitional Federal Parliament on transition issues such as the drafting of the constitution and development of an electoral framework for elections leading to a permanent government. It also funded quick impact projects such as street lighting, market rehabilitation and government capacity building in Mogadishu and TFG-held areas of Somalia.
Under track two, USAID launched a Partnership for Economic Growth in Hargeisa that included rehabilitation of community infrastructure and technical assistance to improve livestock and agriculture. In Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug and some emerging administrations, USAID began to identify projects in the areas of education, maternal health, democratization, elections support, local governance capacity building and youth engagement. Following agreement in September 2011 by representatives of the TFG, Puntland, Galmudug and ASWJ on the “Road Map for Ending the Transition in Somalia,” the United States endorsed that effort. It continues to be supportive of the Road Map.
Somali Reactions to the Dual Track Policy
Somalis do not have a unified position on the composition of their future government. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Somalis have reacted in very different ways to Washington’s dual track policy. Generally speaking, the TFG and most Somalis from south/central Somalia have been critical of the policy. They see any support for entities other than the TFG or some future national government as a reduction in central authority. Somalis from Somaliland, Puntland and other local jurisdictions have been more supportive of the dual track policy but they are by no means universally in favor of it.
It is instructive to look at a few Somali reactions. Abukar Arman, the TFG Special Envoy to the United States, commented earlier this year that while domestic factors keep Somalia divided, the balkanization policies of the United States and Ethiopia have exacerbated the problem. He argued that the U.S. dual track policy “provides political legitimacy and financial incentives to any political actors so long as they stand opposed to al-Shabaab, even if those actors are on a path that makes the reconstitution of the Somali state more difficult. As it is there are now several semi-autonomous mini-states that are given some degree of support and legitimacy by the policies of non-Somali actors.” More senior TFG officials have been less critical, at least publicly, of the dual track policy.
Writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, Abdinur Mohamud stated late last year: “Instead of empowering the legitimately and internationally recognized government of Somalia to establish the necessary political, economic, military and social institutions and infrastructure of governance, the United States adopted what it called a ‘dual track policy.’ While assisting the central administration, the United States was also planting the seeds to encourage the sprouting of quasi-independent local and regional administrations within and outside the government.”
Somali analyst Afyare Abdi Elmi is quoted in Kenya’s The Nation that “the dual track policy only provides a new label for the old (and failed) Bush Administration’s approach. It inadvertently strengthens clan divisions, undermines inclusive and democratic trends and most importantly, creates a conducive environment for the return of organized chaos or warlordism in the country.”
In even stronger words, Somali freelance writer Said Liban commented earlier this year that the U.S. dual track policy “has produced conceivably unintentional disaster, resulting in an explosion of mini-states that have undermined even the relatively peaceful areas in Somaliland and Puntland.” He argued that the communique from the London Conference earlier this year constitutes the same policy because “it focuses on an all-out war against Islamist militants, and invites new regional or local tribal warlords to join in the campaign.” Soon after the United States announced the dual track policy, the government of Puntland said “it welcomes, supports and endorses the new U.S. Dual Track Policy which is based on realities on the ground in Somalia.” The Puntland government also called for a conference to speed up national reconciliation. Puntland authorities have generally remained supportive of the dual track policy.
Speaking in London in November 2010, Somaliland President Ahmed Silanyo said: “We also hope to secure stronger ties with individual donors, not least the United States, which recently announced its dual track policy that will see direct aid and cooperation with Somaliland increased. I very much welcome this as a positive step in keeping [with] the realities on the ground.” Somaliland officials subsequently became more cautious in their public comments on the U.S. dual track policy.
Status of the Dual Track Policy
The director of the State Department’s Office of East African Affairs, Deborah Malac, commented in January 2012 at a conference on Somalia at Ohio State University: “We would argue that there is demonstrated progress and success for the dual-track policy. But as we do with any policy…we look at the situation on the ground and make determinations on when and whether we need to make adjustments to that policy. It is going to be a painstaking process to move things forward in a positive direction.”
Speaking at a press briefing in London following the February conference on Somalia, Secretary of State Clinton emphasized the need to create by August 2012 a new Somali parliament and constitution that take into account the interests of all Somalis—not from one region, one clan, one sub-clan, but all Somalis. She also argued for a “unified Somalia” that takes into account the legitimate constituencies that exist throughout the country.
The United States has never expressed support for an independent Somaliland. It has effectively left that decision to the African Union. An independent Somaliland was not part of the dual track policy when it was announced and it never subsequently became part of the policy. On the other hand, Somaliland had every reason to expect more political interaction with and increased development assistance from the United States as a consequence of the dual track policy based on U.S. appreciation of and support for Somaliland’s political and economic progress.
I have argued for the past decade that the United States should devote more development resources to Somaliland and Puntland. In the case of Somaliland, the security situation permitting, I have also urged the United States to open a small liaison office in Hargeisa to monitor an expanded development program. While there have been more frequent visits by U.S. officials, they still take place under security requirements that are unnecessarily stringent. At a minimum, U.S. personnel should have more flexibility in visiting both Somaliland and Puntland.
The U.S. dual track policy will continue to react to the situation on the ground in the Horn of Africa. As the situation changes, U.S. priorities will change and there could be even significant policy changes. While the campaign against al-Shabaab has been the single most significant determinant of U.S. policy in the region, it is not the only one. The United States remains interested in advancing economic development and democratization in Somalia and Somaliland. While pressures on the U.S. federal budget are going to make U.S. engagement increasingly more difficult in the coming months, Somaliland needs to continue to make its case for additional U.S. assistance.
Ultimately, the status of Somaliland and the rest of Somalia will most probably be determined by Somalis throughout the country in consultation with each other. Once there is agreement among Somalis, the international community will almost certainly follow their lead.