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Those working to help Somalia should pay attention to Afghanistan

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In his 2010 memoir Decision Points, former United States President George W Bush explained his rationale for the decision to invade Afghanistan in the following words:

“Afghanistan was the ultimate nation-building mission. We had liberated the country from a primitive dictatorship, and we had a moral obligation to leave behind something better. We also had a strategic interest in helping the Afghan people build a free society… because a democratic Afghanistan would be a hopeful alternative to the vision of the extremists.”

After two decades of Western occupation, however, there seems to be little sign of the “hopeful alternative” Bush predicted, at least judging from the desperate scenes at Kabul airport, where people have been scrambling to leave the country following the extraordinarily swift Taliban takeover of the country. This is despite the lives and treasure the West has poured into rebuilding Afghanistan’s institutions and economy, and into training and equipping the Afghan army and police.

There are important lessons to be drawn from Afghanistan’s fate by those engaged in the fight against extremist groups in Somalia where a similar nation-building experiment is being carried out by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). For the past 14 years, African countries, with the support of the West, have deployed troops, drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia, to battle the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabab, and to prop up Somalia’s feeble government. AMISOM also has civilian and police components aimed at helping rebuild civilian institutions.

Yet despite years-long efforts and the expenditure of some $900m annually, the government in Mogadishu remains weak and divided with little popular legitimacy. And though pushed out of most........

© Al Jazeera

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