Lawmakers to fight U. S. foreign aid cuts to Somalia

Somali child
   Impoverished Somali child
Apr. 24, 2017 (GIN) – Plans to slash foreign aid to Somalia now at the brink of famine would hurt humanitarian relief efforts and programs to curb terrorism, say local lawmakers from Minnesota.

Speaking in Minneapolis at a forum on the drought situation in the Horn of Africa, U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) decried the administration’s proposed 31-percent cut in foreign aid. “Terrorist groups like al-Shabab have demonstrated a history of capitalizing on this type of crisis and we can’t allow that to be the case today,” he said.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said the U.S. needs to help drought and famine victims in their own country, before they are forced to flee. “We have so many people here from Somalia that have relatives and friends, and when you don’t help people in their own country it kind ends up on your shores anyway,” she said.

A recent review by General Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command, acknowledged a rise in piracy off the Somali coast partially fueled by drought and famine. At least half a dozen attacks have occurred in the last month, he said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also expressed concerns about the resurgence of Somali piracy during his recent visit to the American military base in Djibouti. Last month, an oil tanker was hijacked by suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, the first such hijacking in the region in five years.

At the same time, some 40 U.S. troops are being readied for travel to Somalia to play a support role training the Somali National Army to create efficient logistics networks to supply their troops. “This is part of a routine deployment that has been really in the works for quite some time,” Gen. Waldhauser said.

Somalia and its international partners are working to train a 28,000-person national army after more than two decades of civil war and turmoil. The insurgent group al-Shabab still controls an estimated 10 percent of the country and conducts regular attacks against military and civilian targets. Somalia relies largely on the 22,000-person African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for its security.

About three million Somalis face food insecurity and a national disaster was declared last month.

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