Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

As US Forces Struggle to Hold Territory in Somalia, Peacekeepers Continue Exodus

Sputnik – March 3, 2018

A US senator has revealed that Washington is struggling with its mission to break militant group al-Shabab’s hold on Somalia.

Some 500 US troops are working with the Somali military and other African partners to eradicate al-Shabab from their strongholds in Somalia. “Our doctrine is…to disrupt, clear, hold. We’re finding it difficult to hold,” Jack Reed, top ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services committee, told Defense One in a story published Friday. “We have specialized units who are very good at disrupting al-Shabab together with our special operators, but we’re certainly not at the ‘clear and hold phase,’ we’re at the phase of disrupting al-Shabab, keeping them off balance.”

A quarter-century since 18 US service members died after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Mogadishu, long-term stability in Somalia seems as distant a hope as it did then, Reed said. The US pulled its troops from the humanitarian mission launched in the country in 1992 shortly after the deadly 1993 incident, and only returned officially in 2013.

But today, despite a US presence that was substantially boosted in 2017, when the number of troops were doubled to the Pentagon’s current declared 500 and commanders were given more freedom to call in airstrikes, the Somali government is struggling to hold territory from what AFRICOM estimates as 3,000 to 6,000 al-Shabab fighters and a few hundred Daesh soldiers.

US troops are officially in Somalia to provide direct assistance to local armed forces, through train and equip and advise and assist missions. But US airstrikes, which have grown much more numerous with US President Donald Trump’s loosening of restrictions, have clear and deadly consequences, most recently on February 26, when a US strike killed two al-Shabab militants and wounded one, according to AFRICOM.

But it’s not enough. “In terms of building a stable entity, a country that can take care of its own forces, that’s a long way off,” Reed told Defense One. Al-Shabab still executes suicide and other attacks daily, and faces little resistance outside the capital, where Reed said the federal government influence is nearly nil.

And US partners in the region are growing tired. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has “pulled back a bit, they’re more located on forward-operating-bases, they’re not going out a lot,” Reed said, having been burned by a series of fatal encounters with militants. AMISOM is also withdrawing troops with the aim of handing over all responsibility to Somalia’s army by 2020 — though the AMISOM heads of state are unhappy about that. The leaders of East African nations contributing some 20,000 troops to the AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia warned the UN that the planned drawdown would “reverse gains.”

The heads of state of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia issued a statement from their Friday meeting in Kampala with Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed that the time frames and troop levels envisioned by the UN Security Council’s drawdown resolution were “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by AMISOM,” the Independent reported.

Some 1,000 troops were withdrawn last year, and 1,000 more are scheduled to leave the country by October, according to the Independent. Meanwhile, three Burundian troops were the most recent to lose their lives when they were ambushed by al-Shabaab Friday.

If the drawdown continues as planned, the US will not fill the void, Reed said.

“We train some specialized units, but I think the notion of going in, like what was done in Afghanistan, to try to train a national army that will fully replace — I don’t think that’s on the table,” he said. “That has to be done, but maybe it could be done by somebody else, maybe we could participate in doing it, but taking that on as we did in Afghanistan or as we did in Iraq?”

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Al-Shabaab and Kenya: the Somali Factor

By JASON MUELLER | CounterPunch | April 6, 2015

On April 2, 2015, al-Shabaab carried out a major attack on Garissa University College, Kenya, killing nearly 150 people—almost entirely students [1]. In response to this attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta immediately called for the training of 10,000 new police officers and “urged Kenyans abroad to help attract tourists back [to Kenya]” after countries began issuing travel advisories that cautioned visiting the region [2]. Predictably, al-Shabaab’s deadliest attack inside of Kenya since its September 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall—killing 67—has dredged up the fraught question: “Is [Kenya’s] nation’s security strong enough?”[3]

At this point, we might stop for a second to consider whether the “strength” of Kenya’s national security is truly in need of bolstering, or if it is already one laden with extreme might—perhaps too much so. In fact, any serious analyses of political violence require us to move beyond the immediacy of events and dig through the social-historical contexts under which these events may have founds their roots. It doesn’t take much effort to acknowledge that an assault on a University that kills nearly 150 people is a tragic and unjustifiable event, but we must not stop there—as most news outlets do. Appeals for emotional outrage, hollow tropes of “they hate us for our freedom,” and pointless/bellicose statements declaring “We will keep hitting them until their spine is completely broken… and we will relish that moment” have no place in a serious sociological analysis, past or present [4]. Rather, we should recognize that insights on the causes of current political violence can be gained by looking at past and current policies that may have enflamed a particular situation.

Taking a brief look at the recent history of Kenyan policies towards Somalis—both internally and across-borders—we encounter some grim revelations. The October 2011 decision by the Kenyan government to invade Southern Somalia (Operation Linda Nchi: “Protect the Country”) was a critical juncture in the relationship between Kenya and al-Shabaab, as thousands of Kenyan security forces romped through Somalia. In fact, al-Shabaab immediately declared that they planned to seek revenge for the Kenyan incursion. This was made explicit in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall assault, where al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane released a statement saying “The attack at Westgate Mall was to torment the Kenyan leaders who’ve impulsively invaded [Somalia]. It was also a retribution against the Western states that supported the Kenyan invasion and are spilling the blood of innocent Muslims in order to pave the way for their mineral companies… So make your choice today and withdraw all your forces [or] an abundance of blood will be spilt in your country” [5]. Somali blood was also spilled at the hands of Kenyan forces in the months following their invasion, confirmed by a ‘Human Rights Watch’ report released in 2013 showing that Kenya had indiscriminately bombed and shelled the population they were sent to protect [6].

In addition to these external factors, the treatment of Somalis within Kenya has been equally troublesome. The Kenyan government has been described as its “own worst enemy,” where it has cast a wide net on countless ethnic Somalis as potential al-Shabaab suspects to be rounded up and interrogated [7]. Moreover, it has recently come to light that Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU)—under direct command of Kenya’s National Security Council—is potentially responsible for nearly 500 extrajudicial executions, operating under the general pretext of: “If the law cannot work, there’s another option… eliminate [them]” [8]. This “elimination” strategy is believed to be directly supported by the West, as they provide the operational intelligence while the Kenyan forces carry out the kinetic operation.

Al-Shabaab has not only carried out numerous attacks in Kenya since the Post-October 2011 “Operation,” but they have had great luck with finding sympathies within Kenyan borders as well, for many of the reasons mentioned above. Like many social problems, it certainly becomes more difficult to ameliorate a conflict after you’ve continually taken steps to exacerbate the issue—giving greater fuel for grievance formation and a calcification of “us vs. the enemy” mentality. We only need to take a cursory examination of the recent verbal exchanges between the Kenyan president and al-Shabaab to understand the severity of issue at hand. Continuing the bombastic rhetoric, President Kenyatta declared that he plans to persist “unbowed” with the scorched-earth policy against al-Shabaab, looking to respond in the “severest way possible” against those he deems responsible. Coinciding with that, we saw al-Shabaab release a statement declaring that “Kenyan cities will run red with blood” until Somalia is “liberated from Kenyan occupation” [9].

To fully explore the current conflict between al-Shabaab, Somalia, Kenya, and all of its neighboring states requires much greater length and a different forum of discussion. However, there are a few thoughts and observations that should strike all those concerned with the situation. First, heavy-handed response by the state security apparatus’ rarely serve to quell violent and disenfranchised armed opposition. To expect al-shabaab to simply dissipate by means of state-sponsored extrajudicial executions and shelling of the civilian populations near which they are potentially operating is a failure on both humanitarian and moral levels. This must be acknowledged as an independent fact, regardless of the nature of violence doled out by al-Shabaab. This applies not only to the Kenyan security forces, but all other security forces involved in the conflagration as well (In particular, Ethiopia and the United States.) Furthermore, as we have seen through countless other recent conflicts in the “global war on terror,” military-interventionist policies are likely to promote hostilities not only within the country being occupied, but potentially the diaspora of that region as well. Viewing all Somali’s as potential suspects is an objectionable violation of the very principles that these countries claim to be fighting for in a “war against terrorism.” Lastly, at the very least, citizens around the globe should continue to be highly skeptical of their governments when a foreign incursion is suggested as a cure-all for “fighting terrorism.” As we’ve seen all too often, it is not just those engaged in the immediate conflict but also those shopping at the markets or attending University that pay the price.

Jason Mueller is a Research Fellow at the ‘Center for the Study of Democracy’ and Graduate (PhD) student in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Research areas include: Social Movements, Political Violence, and State Repression, with a particular interest in Somali affairs. He can be reached at: jmueller018@gmail.com

References.

[1] Ellis, Ralph, Ben Brumfield, and Christian Purefoy. “Five arrested in deadly attack on Kenyan college.” CNN. April 3, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/africa/kenya-garissa-university-attack/index.html

[2] Honan, Edith. “Al Shabaab Kills at Least 147 at Kenyan University; Siege Ends.” Reuters. April 3, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/02/uk-kenya-security-college-idUKKBN0MT0CS20150402 ; and, “Kenya Sees Biggest Al-Shabaab Attack Yet; 147 Dead.” Modern Ghana. April 3, 2015. http://www.modernghana.com/news/609071/1/kenya-sees-biggest-al-shabaab-attack-yet-147-dead.html

[3] Ellis, Ralph, Ben Brumfield, and Christian Purefoy. “Five arrested in deadly attack on Kenyan college.”

[4] “Kenyan Troops ‘kill 60 Al-Shabab Fighters’ in Somalia.” BBC News. January 7, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16455039

[5] McConnell, Tristan. “Who Is Al Shabaab Leader Ahmed Godane?” GlobalPost. October 1, 2013. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/kenya/131001/who-al-shabaab-leader-ahmed-godane

[6] Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2013: Somalia.” http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/somalia

[7] Hidalgo, Paul. “Kenya’s Worst Enemy.” Hiiraan. April 24, 2014. http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/apr/54256/kenya_s_worst_enemy.aspx

[8] “Exclusive: Kenyan Counterterrorism Police Admit to Extrajudicial Killings.” Al Jazeera. December 8, 2014. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/8/kenyan-counter-terrorismpoliceconfesstoextrajudicialkillings.html

[9] “Kenya to Respond to Shebab Attack in ‘severest Way’: President.” AFP/Modern Ghana. April 4, 2015. http://www.modernghana.com/news/609246/1/kenya-to-respond-to-shebab-attack-in-severest-way-.html

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US army prepares for war against al-Shabab in Somalia: Report

Press TV – July 30, 2012
US Army Maj. Gen. David Hogg (C) inspects Sierra Leone troops in Freetown during a deployment ceremony this year. (File photo)
US Army Maj. Gen. David Hogg (C) inspects Sierra Leone troops in Freetown during a deployment ceremony this year. (File photo)

A new report has unveiled that the US Army is “quietly equipping and training” thousands of African troops to prepare them for a war against al-Shabab fighters in Somalia.

“Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union (AU). But in truth, according to interviews by US and African officials and senior military officers and budget documents, the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon, trained and supplied by the US government,” Los Angeles Times reported on Monday.

The report added that the American officers along with dozens of retired foreign military personnel, hired through private contractors, are guiding the African soldiers.

“Nearly 20 years after US Army Rangers suffered a bloody defeat in Somalia, losing 18 soldiers and two Black Hawk helicopters, Washington is once again heavily engaged in the chaotic country. Only this time, African troops are doing the fighting and dying,” the report said.

Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital is one of the bases the US army uses to train African soldiers, it said.

Through deploying African troops to Somalia, “the Obama administration is trying to achieve US military goals with minimal risk of American deaths and scant public debate,” the report added.

“The US can underwrite the war in Somalia for a relative pittance — the cost over four years has been less than USD 700 million, a tenth of what the military spends in Afghanistan in a month — but the price tag is growing. More than a third of the US assistance has been spent since early 2011,” the American newspaper said.

African forces are supplied “with surveillance drones, ammunition, small arms, armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, communications gear, medical equipment and other sophisticated aid and training,” the report added.

“The US government has done extremely well in providing for us and we are grateful for that, but they can do more,” said Brig. Gen Komba Mondeh, Sierra Leone’s chief of operations and plans.

“This is real war, and we expect to see the body bags coming back home,” he said.

The report came as the US has recently stepped up its assassination drone operations in the famine-stricken Somalia.

The weak Western-backed transitional government in Mogadishu has been battling al-Shabab for the past five years and is propped up by a strong AU force from Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti.

The country has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. Breaks Somalia Arms Embargo It Helped Establish

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | July 28, 2012

Twenty years after it helped establish a United Nations arms embargo on war-torn Somalia, the United States is now violating this international effort by helping local militias fighting “Al-Qaeda.”

According to the UN’s Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, the U.S. is carrying out three covert programs to assist Somali fighters in their battles with Al-Shabab.

The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly sent officers to the government of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region not recognized by the UN. Also, American special forces are fighting alongside Puntland soldiers.

The Obama administration has not notified the UN of these activities, which is required under the embargo established in 1992 after the Somalia civil war broke out.

The U.S. is not the only country violating the embargo. At least 11 other governments have failed to inform the UN of cargo flights to supply various parties in the Somalia conflict.

July 28, 2012 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment