29 November 2011

Back on the Ground in Somalia

The incomparable Sean Naylor (with whom I had the good fortune to trade some correspondence back in the '90s) has an excellent series of articles in the Army Times that cover US operations in Somalia since 9/11. It's a long article, but it really is fantastic, and I'm betting Sean expands it into a book in the near future.

However, in 2006, an opportunity to gain greater access to Somalia presented itself when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in an effort to oust the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist group (sometimes referred to as the Council of Islamic Courts) that had seized power in Mogadishu from the Transitional Federal Government. Ethiopia, which had fought two previous wars with Somalia, first sent forces across the border in July to prop up the TFG, which had moved to Baidoa, about 160 miles northwest of Mogadishu. But in late December, a far larger Ethiopian force invaded with the intent of driving the ICU from power.

Despite speculation that Ethiopia invaded at the U.S.’s behest, cables from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa released by WikiLeaks indicate Ethiopia felt forced to act by circumstances in Somalia. “The GOE [government of Ethiopia] feels ever more compelled to intervene in southern Somalia to counter what it sees as the growing threat of an extremist Islamic regime in Mogadishu that is cooperating with Eritrea and other foreign elements to undermine Ethiopian stability and territorial integrity,” said U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto in a Dec. 6, 2006, cable. The same cable accurately predicted Ethiopia would invade in late December and that the incursion might “prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine.”

The cables make clear that the U.S. expected Ethiopia to invade. Nonetheless, a senior military official said events caught Joint Special Operations Command, which controls the military’s elite special ops forces, unprepared.

“The military wasn’t prepared to take any advantage of it,” the official said. “We should have been leaning forward to capitalize on this, and we did nothing.”

JSOC scrambled to take advantage by sending in small teams with Ethiopian special operations forces.

“Less than a dozen” JSOC operators went in, drawn from a mix of units, the intelligence official said. The largest number came from Naval Special Warfare Development Group, sometimes known as SEAL Team 6. The Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron also provided personnel. The numbers were kept small “because we didn’t need that much,” the official said.

But even the secret deployment of such small numbers of JSOC personnel into Somalia created angst in Washington’s policymaking circles.

“It was very uncomfortable,” the intelligence official said.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Brian Train said...

Just for fun (and because the idea seemed to be considered for a very short time) I drew up a scenario for my Somalia game about a quick American intervention to drive out al-Qaeda affiliates in 2002.