We need to be honest about the limits of U.S. foreign policy
Somali government soldiers patrol an empty street near the main Bakara market in the capital Mogadishu / Reuters
On Thursday, a U.S. drone fired on two figures believed to be associated with Al-Shabab, an Islamist group in Somalia believed to have ties to al Qaeda. They were, according to U.S. officials, wounded. Later news indicates that U.S. special operations forces landed inside Somalia to retrieve the two injured men, taking them away for questioning.
The incident is interesting, not for what it reveals about the capability of the U.S. counterterrorism apparatus (which is, to be certain, quite substantial), but rather about the limits of U.S. policymaking in the region.
Ever since the defeat of the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist movement which had established control over Mogadishu in December 2006, the U.S. government hasn't seemed able to make up its mind about what to do in Somalia. There's been the constant threat of violent counterterrorism operations like this latest drone strike and retrieval. There has been a consistent funding and support of Ethiopia, America's most eager proxy in the Horn of Africa. But a broad sense of strategy -- of a solid goal the U.S. is working to achieve and the means by which it will be achieved -- is sorely missing.