"Piracy and the growth of Islamic extremism are not the natural state of being. They are but symptoms of an underlying malaise - the absence of government and hope," Sharmarke said.

"The irony is that it would cost only a quarter of what is being spent right now on the warships trying to combat piracy, to fund our plan and actually solve the problems rather than simply chasing them round the Indian Ocean," he said.

Obama strategy

Obama announced this week that the US would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to combat Taliban insurgency, as well as measures aimed at ending corruption and promoting local accountability before a US withdrawal.

Like the embattled government in Kabul, Sharmarke's UN-backed administration controls only part of the capital, Mogadishu, and is battling to subdue anti-government fighters and pirates who prey on shipping in the Indian Ocean.


Timeline: Somalia
Restoring Somalia
A long road to stability
Al-Shabab: Somali fighters undeterred
 Somalia at a crossroads
 Somaliland: Africa's isolated state
 What next for Somalia?
 Who are al-Shabab?
 Riz Khan: The vanishing Somalis

Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991.

Al-Shabab and other anti-government groups regularly attack government troops and African Union peacekeepers, in efforts to force them out of the country.

Al-Shabab and allied groups control much of southern and central Somalia and want to impose their version of sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.

The Horn of Africa state hit the headlines again this week when a suicide bomber struck a medical graduation ceremony and killed at least 22 people, including three government ministers, several doctors, students and their relatives.

Western security agencies have said Somalia has become a safe haven for fighter groups, which include foreigners who are using Somalia to plot attacks across the impoverished region and beyond.

Fighting has killed at least 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million people from their homes, triggering one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.