Policy WATCH:Interviews
The US Dual Track Policy Towards Somalia
Interview with Matt Goshko, Somalia Unit Spokesperson, US Embassy, Nairobi
By YAHYA MOHAMED 03/11/2011
Since the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, recently announced Washington’s policy towards Somalia, different reactions emerged from various fronts. The elite among the Somali community were the first to criticize the so called ‘‘Dual Track Policy’’ of the US towards Somalia.

The Obama Administration said it will pursue a dual track policy where it will continue supporting the Somalia Transitional Federal Institutions and work with the administrations of Somaliland, Puntland, and other established regional or clan authorities.

Critics argue that the the new approach is harmful to the reconciliation process and stabilization efforts for the country. Others believe the policy is contradicting itself by supporting the TFG, which claims it unifies all the clans with the over 500 members of parliament representation (seats held along tribal lines), and at the same time supporting some of the self administered clan based authorities.

In a bid to understand the objectives of the Dual Track Policy, Somalia Report’s Yayha Mohamed conducted an exclusive interview with Matt Goshko, Somalia Unit Spokesperson for the American Embassy in Nairobi.

Question: Do you think this the dual track policy will work? Matt Goshka: The United States dual-track approach in Somalia will help ensure that no voices are excluded from the peace process. We will work with all those in Somalia – the TFG, regional and local administrations, civil society groups, and clan leaders in who share the same goals of peace and stability. Broadening our engagement to include all those who reject both the ideologies of hate and terror spread by al-Shabaab and other extremists; and the divisiveness of those who profit from the status quo, will strengthen implementation of the Djibouti Peace Process.

Question: Some critics argue that the US is known for supporting only weak administrations as in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Somalia. In your new Dual Track policy, what plan do you have for Al-shabab insurgent group which is the main opposition of the TFG? Do you plan to work with them for Somalia to get peace?

Matt Goshka: The United States is a partner of the Somali people as they work to bring peace and stability back to Somalia. One way we do this through our support for the Transitional Federal Institutions created by the internationally recognized Djibouti Peace Process. The United States will not engage with al-Shabaab, which is a designated foreign terrorist organization that has brought nothing but murder and misery to Somalia.

Question: When the Somali government collapsed, the US made attempts at restoring peace in Somalia. For instance, it’s participation in the UNISOM mission, but it now appears it’s engagements are more of humanitarian than peace making. Why?

Matt Goshka: The United State provides aid to Somalia as well as support for the AMISOM forces that are supporting the TFG. Our approach recognizes that in order for us to help the Somali people bring peace and stability back to the country, our engagement has to support: humanitarian needs, development capacity, and political processes while providing the necessary security to allow these to flourish.

Question: The US provides aid to the TFG and other administrations within Somalia. What sort of accountability measures does it use to make sure that the funds/aids are well used? Does it know that it is sometimes distributed along tribal lines and some deserving minority groups don’t benefit from it?

Matt Goshka: Accountability and transparency are essential to good governance and the United States applies strict accountability measures to the assistance it delivers. This includes using independent third parties, be they accounting firms or implementing partners, to verify that funds are distributed and utilized as intended. Any allegation of malfeasance is taken seriously and is thoroughly investigated. Question: Apart from the fear of Somalia being an Al-Qaida base and a piracy center, is there any other interest which the US has in Somalia such as economic or investments?

Matt Goshka: As President Obama said on August 5, 2010, when he met with young civil society, business, and development leaders from around Africa, the United States sees Africa, and Somalia is very much included, as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. Whether it's creating jobs in a global economy, or delivering education and health care, combating climate change, standing up to violent extremists who offer nothing but destruction, or promoting successful models of democracy and development -- all this requires strong, self-reliant and prosperous African nations.

Question: It is said that some countries in East Africa are supporting the TFG to the fullest and some have even launched attacks against Al-shabab from their countries (e.g Kenya and Ethiopia), is the American government involved in this?

Matt Goshka: We are not directing any forces operating in Somalia. Any questions about foreign governments should be directed to those governments.