Operations in Somalia meet US interests

Globe & Mail:

Ethiopia's successful military thrust into Somalia bears the hallmarks of a decisive and well-co-ordinated operation that meshes seamlessly with the Bush administration's aims in the Horn of Africa.

So unconfirmed reports of U.S. marines deployed near Somalia's Kenyan border, of U.S. warships close offshore intercepting small boats and spy planes targeting fleeing Islamic fighters for Ethiopian helicopter gunships all suggested covert U.S. military and intelligence assistance.

The Pentagon denies any involvement. Not everyone is convinced.

"Overt, no; covert, surely," says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington-based defence and security group. "It would be scandalous if it wasn't," he added, referring to the Bush administration's self-defined strategic imperative of toppling Islamic extremist regimes.

"There was no way that America was going to abide a Somali version of the Taliban," he said yesterday in an interview.

While the Pentagon openly admits that U.S. warships are keeping watch in international waters off Somalia, it disavows any direct involvement in the Ethiopian military campaign that ousted the Islamic Courts from Mogadishu.

Close observers of Somalia and military analysts remain divided over the degree of U.S. involvement, if any. What is certain is that the invasion by Ethiopia, an acknowledged U.S. ally in the strife-torn Horn of Africa, was accepted if not encouraged by the Bush administration.

Fears that Somalia, already regarded as a dangerous and failed state, would become a full-blown haven and training ground for Islamic jihadists was only part of the reason that Washington established a base for special-operations forces in nearby Djibouti. Ever since 2001, the entire region has been a focus for U.S. spies and Washington's clandestine military operations. Suspected terrorists have been killed by missiles launched from unmanned drones, murky "security" companies have won big-ticket contracts for undisclosed missions and rumours of bounties and funding for shady warlords abound.


There is much more. Pike may overstate US involvement. The US has admitted to providing intelligence to the Ethiopians and it has also admitted to its naval forces being deployed to intercept anyone trying to evade the sweep.

I am skeptical that the Islamic Courts or al Qaeda have 3,500 people hiding in Mogadishu. They may not have had much more than that total and several thousand were killed and most of the rest are now trap in Ras Kamboni. This is a coherent statement of what the Ethiopians are trying to accomplish. It makes much more sense than the short hand narrative in most of the media.

At the time of this post there was no report of military an attack in Ras Kamboni. Bill Roggio reports on more emerging connections between the Islamic Courts and al Qaeda.


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