Somalia's Chance: Can a U.S.-Backed African Force Bring Peace?

Dominic Nahr / Magnum for TIME

Somalia, Mogadishu, 2012. An African Union soldier stands on the top floor of the destroyed Al-Uruba hotel which was one of the main bases of Al-Shabaab and was taken by the AU. It is now almost empty as most troops have been positioned out of Mogadishu.

Sometime during the past 21 years of Somalia's wars, there came a moment when the destruction reached such an epic level that survival became incongruous. In downtown Mogadishu, where houses spill their stone guts into the street and roads are buried under two decades of rubble, 250,000 people live in egg-shaped pods of brushwood and plastic tied together with string. Inside the gray skeleton of the seafront al-Uruba Hotel, on whose gaily tiled balconies ministers and ambassadors once enjoyed Sangiovese and canap├ęs before a view of the Indian Ocean, a shiny white prefab Ugandan-army canteen serves barbecued beef and spicy cabbage...

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