US “Dual Track” Policy in Somalia


Amb David Shinn

By: Amb David Shinn

Somalilandsun – There may be some confusion over the US so-called “dual track” policy in Somalia. It was first enunciated in 2010 as a policy for supporting the central government in Mogadishu in addition to Somaliland, Puntland, and other emerging entities in Somalia.

The dual track approach had a strong political connotation. The term disappeared from official US lexicon about a year later and did not reappear until the testimony of the new Assistant Secretary of State, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 8 October 2013.

It is important to look at her precise words. First, she said prior to the US recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia, US policy in Somalia had three primary objectives, one of which was to “promote our ‘dual track’ policy.”

Following US recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia Thomas-Greenfield stated that this dual track policy evolved as follows: “Third, our dual-track approach concluded (my emphasis) with the successful completion of the Djibouti Peace Process and the recognition of the Federal Government of Somalia. The United States has underscored the importance of outreach and engagement with the regional administrations to form the federal framework. We will continue to fund humanitarian assistance and civil society programs in Somaliland and Puntland, with an objective of improving regional collaboration towards federalism.”

I read this as strong support for Somali federalism within a central government structure and continuing humanitarian support for Somaliland and Puntland. I think some of my Somali friends are reading more political importance into her statement than is there. Former Somali special envoy to the US, Abukar Arman, offers an articulate analysis of US-Somali relations in a piece titled “Getting US-Somali Relations on the Right Track” carried in The Hill on 14 October 2013. He writes, however, as though the dual track policy of several years ago still governs US policy.

Amb. Shinn, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia (1996-99) and to Burkina Faso (1987-90) is currently an adjunct professor of international affairs at The George Washington University, where he received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.

The Amb is an analyst of reckon in Horn of Africa issues and a prolific writer with numerous articles that can be read at his blog

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