The African Union Sighs at Somalia

Somalia's future looks more precarious every day. Last week's African Union summit ended with promises that Guinea and Djibouti would send battalions of reinforcements to keep the AU's embattled peacekeeping force in Mogadishu from being overrun by the Islamist militants of Al-Shabab. But the mission may be doomed nonetheless; most AU members see scant chance of success in Somalia and now fear their presence may be making things worse. Once hailed as an African solution for an African problem, the African Union Mission in Somalia has prompted more hesitancy than action. Sierra Leone, Malawi, Ghana, and Nigeria have failed to deliver on similar troop pledges.

The doubters may be right. Although few Somalis share Al-Shabab's brand of radical Islam, the group draws recruits by framing its war as Somalis versus foreigners. Sending more AU peacekeepers to Mogadishu would likely strengthen that pitch. It's no wonder most AU members are reluctant to be drawn in. But the continent won't be able to look away if Al-Shabab wins in Somalia.