Mattis on Somalia

May 23, 2017

There is renewed hope for the peace process in Somalia, said U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis following a recent British-sponsored conference on Somalia in London.

Secretary Mattis told reporters that he had a productive meeting with Somali President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed. The United States, he said, has a role to play in Somalia, and in helping that nation defeat al-Shabaab, a vicious terror group. The United Nations, the African Union and the European Union joined with Arab, African and European nations to discuss the way forward.

Mattis said Somalia has an economic and a governmental program to put it back on its feet, and that international support is crucial to the process.

“So, we were working on how the future looks and what nations could commit what to what and get the framework right,” Mattis said. “It includes on the security side both a continued maturation of their security forces in the defenses against al-Shabaab, but it also includes a reconciliation program designed to pull the fence-sitters and the middle-of-the-roaders away from al-Shabaab. It's very well put together.”

The holistic approach to the situation in Somalia is the one that has a chance of succeeding, Mattis said.

“There is certainly an attitude of renewed hope based on the election of what appears to be a very good leader in terms of understanding the need for military security, but as well economic efforts, and certainly reconciliation is going to have to mark this way forward, as well,” he said.

Mattis praised the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, saying the African Union Mission in Somalia troops have done a good job in a difficult position.

“For years, AMISOM and the Somali soldiers have fought against a pretty tough enemy that has sworn allegiance. . .to al-Qaida,” Secretary Mattis said. “It's an enemy that's got to be fought and the people have to be defended.” The United States is committed to doing its part.