The U.S. special envoy for Somalia on Tuesday urged support for Somali regions seized from the al-Qaida-linked Shebab rebels controlling swathes of territory, but now under pressure from regional armies.
James Swan said local authorities should be bolstered in the Mogadishu outskirts recently captured by African Union forces, and in southern and western Somali regions where Kenyan and Ethiopian forces are battling the insurgents.
"United States believes a key priority that straddles security, politics and recovery is how to govern and assist in areas recaptured from al-Shebab," Swan told reporters during a conference call.
"It is urgent to avoid security and governance vacuum in these locations and to provide a rapid recovery where al-Shebab has left," he added.
The hardline rebels have controlled much of central and southern Somalia since emerging as a strong political and fighting force five years ago after Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia to oust an Islamist movement they belonged to.
The extremist insurgents have been fighting to topple the Western-backed Somali government protected in Mogadishu by some 10,000 soldiers from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda who make up the AU force.
Since plunging into lawlessness 21 years ago, Somalia has been governed by warlords, ruthless gunmen and internationally-backed interim governments, all of which have failed to exert credible authority across the country.
On Thursday, Somali and foreign leaders will meet at a London conference to tackle the Horn of Africa country's protracted chaos that has spawned piracy, terrorism and a devastating humanitarian crisis.
"We support the London agenda to address key issues," Swan said. "Post-conference action will be the true test of success in London, and we are fully committed to the hard work that will follow."
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