U.S. nominates first ambassador to Somalia since ill-fated intervention
NAIROBI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has nominated the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since the early 1990s, when the United States pulled its diplomatic staff out of the country following an ill-fated intervention exemplified by the “Black Hawk Down” disaster.
The U.S. State Department said the nomination of career diplomat Katherine Dhanani signals the deepening relationship between the two countries.
Somalia is attempting to rebuild after two decades of civil war and lawlessness triggered by the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. The fragile government is being backed by international aid aimed at preventing it from becoming a haven for al Qaeda-style militants in East Africa.
The United States intervened in Somalia in 1992, initially on a humanitarian mission, but became embroiled in a conflict against war lords.
In the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed and two helicopters shot down in fighting against Somali militias. Hundreds of Somalis also died in the battle, which was depicted in the film “Black Hawk Down”.
U.S. troops pulled out in 1994, ending the mission.
At the time, the battle marked the U.S Army’s heaviest losses in a single day since the Vietnam War and it has remained central to the American view of the Horn of Africa state.
In recent years, persistent attacks in the capital have complicated the government’s efforts to secure the nation for a referendum on a new federal constitution and a presidential election in 2016.
“Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation,” the statement said. “The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner.”
The U.S. Mission to Somalia is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. The State Department said Washington hoped to increase its diplomatic presence in Somalia as security improves.
Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated militants, were pushed out of Mogadishu by African peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has waged a series of gun and grenade attacks to try to overthrow the government and impose its strict version of sharia law.
The United States has launched a series of strikes against al Shabaab leaders in recent months, killing its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September, and Tahliil Abdishakur, chief of al Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, in late December.