By KRISTINE FRAZAO, Sinclair Broadcast Group
WASHINGTON (SBG) – The hope for Somalia is the hope for most countries around the world: peace and long-term stability.
As part of that effort, the United States has been helping build up the Somali National Army to fight terror groups like al-Shabab.
But a report last year by the U.S. State Department Office of Inspector General found quite a bit of that aid unaccounted for, not to mention improper name-check vetting and monitoring of soldiers entering the Somali National Guard and a lack of sufficient controls to make sure U.S. money is not instead going to finance terrorists.
“There’s 920 instances of child soldiers, forcing children to fight. There’s evidence that some of these soldiers are parts of al-Qaida. There’s also evidence that some of these soldiers are nothing more than highway robbers,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., chairman of the Subcommittee of Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management.
Despite much of the aid for the country being cut off since that report, the committee is shining a light on an $8 million grant still in place, including $4.3 million in stipends for the Somali National Army.
“Our deficit this year will be a trillion dollars. Where is the money coming from? And also buying uniforms in the Somalian Army and paying their salary just isn’t something I think is a good use of American taxpayer dollars,” Paul said in an interview last week.
According to the State Department, the U.S.-Somalia relationship is an important one with goals of promoting political and economic stability, helping alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and preventing the use of Somalia as a safe haven for terrorists from around the globe. But without proper oversight, the concern now is that that mission is nearly impossible to accomplish.