Publisher Center for Strategic and International Studies
Release Date February 2007
On January 17, 2007, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center, hosted a major conference in Washington, DC, entitled "Somalia's Future: Options for Diplomacy, Assistance, and Peace Operations." The conference brought together observers from Mogadishu, senior U.S. policymakers, representatives from humanitarian assistance organizations, and regional analysts to convey to a U.S. audience the current situation in Somalia and to lay out the challenges facing the United States and the broader international community.
Conference participants agreed that there is a window of opportunity for the United States, in collaboration with Somalis and the broader international community, to effect positive change in Somalia but that this window may close in the near future. After 12 years of policy disengagement that followed the failed U.S. military intervention of 1993, the United States has an opportunity to forge a forward-looking, comprehensive strategy to address immediate security concerns and the longer-term threat of regional instability. In his opening remarks to the conference, Senator Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Africa Subcommittee, summarized the challenge:
“We cannot allow our past to overshadow the pressing security concerns we face in the [Horn of Africa] today. We have an opportunity to help the Somalia people dig themselves out of almost two decades of chaos and to strengthen U.S. national security at the same time. But if our government does not move quickly and aggressively on all fronts, we can be sure Somalia will continue to be a haven for terrorist networks and a source of instability that poses a direct threat to the United States.”