The PJ Tatler

State Dept. Opens Not-Really-in-Somalia Somali Mission

The State Department has opened its new Somalia diplomatic operations — but, as Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t leave the airport on his trip there, the U.S. mission won’t even be based in the country.

“The Department of State is pleased to announce the commencement of operations by the United States Mission to Somalia. The new mission reflects a continuation of U.S. efforts to normalize the U.S.-Somalia bilateral relationship since recognizing the Federal Government of Somalia on January 17, 2013,” press secretary John Kirby said in a statement this morning. “The United States Mission to Somalia is based within the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and will be headed by a Chargé d’Affaires until the President appoints, and Senate confirms, the next U.S. Ambassador to Somalia.”

“The launch of the U.S. Mission to Somalia is the next step towards reestablishing a diplomatic presence by the United States in Somalia as announced by Secretary Kerry on May 5 during his historic visit to Mogadishu. U.S. officials will continue to travel to Somalia to conduct official business as security conditions permit.”

It was unclear whether U.S. diplomatic personnel would embed with Kenyan mission staff when conducting official businesses there.

Al-Shabaab struck a hotel in the Somali capital less than two months ago during President Obama’s visit to neighboring Kenya. A suicide bomber rammed the gate of the Jazeera Palace Hotel, shearing the side off the six-story building in the explosion.

The hotel is near the United Nations compound. It houses several foreign missions, including China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya. Jazeera Palace Hotel also had Kenyan management and many Kenyan workers.

Kerry stayed in the airport for about three hours during his May visit. Days later, Obama’s pick to be ambassador to Somalia withdrew her nomination.

Obama nominated career Foreign Service official Katherine Dhanani to the post on Feb. 25. She was to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since the embassy shut its doors in 1991. “This was a decision made by the nominee for personal family reasons. Our policy on Somalia has not changed, so there’s no news to report on that. This was simply a decision for personal reasons,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said at the time. “…But I think the secretary’s visit to Mogadishu is a clear testimony to our commitment to the progress that’s been made in Somalia and to continuing to support it, and to doing so by having an enhanced presence in Mogadishu.”