Limited US military assistance will resume to some Somali troops

Somali soldiers patrol Sanguuni military base south of Mogadishu, Somalia. (AFP/File)
Updated 02 July 2019

Limited US military assistance will resume to some Somali troops

  • The aid would include food, fuel and limited non-lethal equipment to a single unit of the Somali National Army
  • Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when warlords overthrew a clan dictator then turned on each other

NAIROBI: The United States is resuming some assistance to a unit of the Somali military that is not working directly with US forces, US officials said on Tuesday, around 18 months after aid was suspended to such units over widespread corruption concerns.
The assistance, part of US military aid to the country aimed at helping the government fend off Islamist insurgents, was suspended in December 2017 after the Somali military was unable to account for food and fuel.
US and Somali investigators visiting bases also found far fewer soldiers than had been reported. Many of the men present were missing their guns, indicating they were not ready for active duty.
The resumption of assistance of units not working directly with US forces will be on a pilot basis, a press release from the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu said.
"On the basis of internal reforms made by the Federal Government of Somalia and an inspection of the recipient unit, the United States assesses that the Federal Government of Somalia and the SNA (Somali National Army) have undertaken significant efforts to improve accountability over donor resources," the release said.
The aid would include food, fuel and limited non-lethal equipment to a single unit of the Somali National Army, a spokeswoman for the embassy told Reuters in an email.
"The Department (of State) intends to implement a robust monitoring and verification mechanism to ensure accountability, including through the use of third-party monitors to conduct physical site inspections to confirm end-user receipt and use," she said.
The aid suspension did not affect some Somali military units, like the Special Forces group Danab that is trained directly by US forces.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since 1991, when warlords overthrew a clan dictator then turned on each other. The US also helps fund an African Union force that is supporting the weak, U.N.-backed government against Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab.


US, Taliban resume peace talks after three-month lull

Updated 08 December 2019

US, Taliban resume peace talks after three-month lull

  • Move to end decades-old conflict plaguing Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban and the US restarted their formal peace negotiations on Saturday, the first such initiative of its kind since President Donald Trump’s decision to call off the talks in early September, an American official privy to the developments told Arab News.

Trump abandoned the talks after 12 people, including a US soldier, were killed by a Taliban bomb attack in Kabul.

“The US rejoined talks today in Doha. The focus of the discussions will be reduction of violence that leads to intra-Afghan negotiations and a cease-fire,” the official said.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also confirmed that the talks had been resumed.

In a tweet, he added that the head of the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, represented the insurgents in the negotiations.

“The talks started from where they were stopped. We discussed signing of the agreement. Talks will continue tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

Anas Haqqani, brother of the Taliban’s deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, has joined the talks as a member of the negotiating team. Anas was one of three Taliban leaders freed in a prisoner swap on Nov. 19.

The peace talks are aimed at striking a deal with the Taliban to allow US and foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for the insurgents’ guarantee to provide security.

Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department had said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be discussing the next steps with the Taliban for the intra-Afghan negotiations and “a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a cease-fire.”

It followed Khalilzad’s meetings with Afghan leaders, including President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and several political leaders in Kabul on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the presidential palace issued a statement saying that the meeting would focus on “the cease-fire and Taliban hideouts outside the country.”

President Ghani told Khalilzad that both issues should be taken seriously to take the peace process forward.

The Taliban and the US had finalized the peace agreement in August — at the conclusion of the ninth round of talks –but the signing of the deal was blocked after Trump’s abrupt decision to call off the negotiations.

However, in conversation with American troops at the Bagram Air Base last week, Trump said that the Taliban wanted a deal and had also agreed to a cease-fire.