U.S. Troops in Somalia: Return Engagement

Iraq and AfPak, you have company:

Foreign troops in helicopters strafed a car Monday in a Somali town controlled by Islamist insurgents, killing two men and capturing two others who were wounded, witnesses said. U.S. military officials said U.S. forces were involved in the raid....

Two U.S. military officials said forces from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were involved. The officials gave no details about the raid or its target, and they spoke on condition of anonymity because the operation was secret.

For a quick review of America's earlier adventures in Somalia, go here.

Update: Further reports suggest the operation was aimed at one Saleh ali Saleh Nabhan, an Al Qaeda operative who may be among the people killed in the raid. But everything's still murky. Stay tuned.

Update #2: Yep. It looks like the attack killed Nabhan.

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  • PicassoIII||

    "Meet the new boss..."

    *sigh*

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Woah, we've been involved in the Ethiopian-ICU war for a few years now. This isn't "new".

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Cool! Somalia is the new home to the Free State Project, right?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I can't imagine how al Qaeda recruiters manage to convince young Muslims that the US is at war with Islam.

  • Jesse Walker||

    we've been involved in the Ethiopian-ICU war for a few years now.

    The U.S. backed the Ethiopian invasion, and before that Washington was channeling aid to some of the warlords. But I think it's worth noting when American troops themselves are in the fray.

  • ||

    ...unless the President is a Democrat.

  • PicassoIII||

    So, when do we send a division or two...

    Maybe we'll need to stabilize some tribal lands in Pakistan.
    *shakes head*

  • team blue||

    bu...bu...but...Bush did it too!!!!

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Jesse Walker -

    Whoops - when I read that forces from the USJSOC were involved, I did not naturally assume that meant that they were "on the ground", as it were. I was just thinking "Hey, we have had like, an AC-130 and a bunch of Navy guys 'involved' for a while."

    You are right, though...given that it was a raid and SOC Soldiers were there, they probably were "on the ground". Oh, goody.

  • Rhywun||

    Goddamn it, I'm sick of this shit. What the fuck are we doing in Somalia?

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    What was the extent of U.S. involvement in Somalia prior to Bush I? We must have had a few pairs of boots unofficially on the ground during Siad-Barre days, right?

  • ||

    Doing exactly what we should be doing elsewhere.

    Focused, low-resource, simple operations, carried out usually by special operations forces with air and naval support. Kill or capture the targets, then bug out. Rinse and repeat as required. Dish out discrete amounts of money and goods as required for direct aid or intelligence.

    As opposed to adopting said country and fulfilling the new White Man's burden, while carrying our 'allies' on our already buckling backs.

  • ||

    This is A-OK with me. We swoop in by air, kill and capture some Al Qaeda people, and take them away by helicopter. Yes, it's force, and yes, it's a violation of Somali sovereignty (such as it is). But it sounds like the very definition of a surgical strike, aimed at (and hitting) Al Qaeda. If only Afghanistan was more like this and less like a long-odds nation-building exercise. Sorry, I'm not enough of a libertarian to object to dead or captured Al Qaeda....

  • ||

    What was the extent of U.S. involvement in Somalia prior to Bush I? We must have had a few pairs of boots unofficially on the ground during Siad-Barre days, right?

    A modest amount of support. Somalia was at one point a serious Soviet ally on the Horn. The Ethiopian revolution/coup that led to Megistu's murderous regime, however, caused the Soviets to desert the Somalis overnight and back the Red Ethiopians. We stepped into the vacuum - wouldn't be surprised if along with the aid we sent a few dozen advisors. Nothing really serious though.

    Course, then Somalia essentially disintegrated.

  • Jesse Walker||

    What was the extent of U.S. involvement in Somalia prior to Bush I? We must have had a few pairs of boots unofficially on the ground during Siad-Barre days, right?

    The Navy had a base there. Also, though I don't know offhand how official it was, some U.S. special forces gave counterinsurgency assistance to Barre's regime.

  • ||

    "Yes, it's force, and yes, it's a violation of Somali sovereignty (such as it is). "

    Contrary to the deceptions that pass for 'international scholarship' today, the Somali government, like many of those presiding in the anarchic third-world, doesn't fulfill the requirements of a sovereign body under classical international law.

    Proof positive that if you posture to what was once a transparent fiction long enough, people will begin to believe it.

    Of course, the whole notion of 'sovereignty', wherein a government has sole responsibility for its own territory, should itself throw up red flags for anyone concerned with individual rights, as opposed to a 'state's/government's' right to rule unopposed in its own territory - regardless of how it behaves towards its own citizens.

    But that requires subtlety, of which we're in short supply today. (But have ever not been?)

  • Hacha Cha||

    you don't usually hear much news about our little trips into Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, etc.

  • Lowdog||

    MlR - I was thinking the same thing recently re: the state/sovereignty. Taking an environmental justice class at university where my prof confuses capitalism with mercantilism and we're getting into how the 'modern state' has come to be.

    Anyway, brain filled with school, rambling...

    I agree that these kinds of surgical strikes make way more sense than Iraq and Afghanistan do. But then, a lot of what I perceive as right is viewed as wrong by those in power, it seems.

  • ||

    I hate to say it but I first read the head line I thought it said U.S. Troops in Sudan. I have no idea why, I must have been really tired or something.

    So when I caught on I was sort of relieved, all "Oh that's OK just business as usual, we haven't gone in for a whole new clusterfuck after all.

  • ||

    There's a world of difference between a small targeted Spec Ops mission to take out a single bad guy, versus invading an entire country.

    This is what we should have done in Iraq if the goal was to take out Saddam Hussein.

    Dunno if it is a NIOF violation, since we don't know what the target did to get targeted. But, unless this escalates, hard for me to get too worked up in the absence of details of what this was about.

  • ||

    Goddamn it, I'm sick of this shit. What the fuck are we doing in Somalia?

    Dude, we need a story for Blackhawk Down 2. Look, Ridley needs another big hit. American Gangster was OK, but...Body of Lies?

  • BakedPenguin||

    What the fuck are we doing in Somalia?



    Blowing shit up. Killing people. Didn't you read the article?

  • Kolohe||

    Bad guys dead or captured, good guys all OK...

    ...so what's with the whining?

    Jesus H. Christ, some of y'all are giving me a modicum of sympathy for DONDEROOOOO!@!

  • Chrispy||

    Doing exactly what we should be doing elsewhere.

    Focused, low-resource, simple operations, carried out usually by special operations forces with air and naval support. Kill or capture the targets, then bug out. Rinse and repeat as required. Dish out discrete amounts of money and goods as required for direct aid or intelligence.

    As opposed to adopting said country and fulfilling the new White Man's burden, while carrying our 'allies' on our already buckling backs.

    I was about to say the same thing (only worded more poorly). We'd have to do this much less frequently if we changed some foreign policy positions, but when we have to go overseas to kill people, this is the way to do it.

  • Kolohe||

    Seriously, isn't this the way most people, left, right and center, want the 'global war or terror' (even if you don't want to call it that) to be fought? Small footprint quick strikes with no collateral damage that neutralize bad actors?

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    If only Afghanistan was more like this and less like a long-odds nation-building exercise. Sorry, I'm not enough of a libertarian to object to dead or captured Al Qaeda....

    Me neither. Well said.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    This is what we should have done in Iraq if the goal was to take out Saddam Hussein.

    Saddam was a much harder target. Surgical removal an unrealistic option.

    But in Saddam's case the first question should have been "why this turd?". I mean it's a really big punch bowl.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Kolohe,

    Seriously, isn't this the way most people, left, right and center, want the 'global war or terror' (even if you don't want to call it that) to be fought? Small footprint quick strikes with no collateral damage that neutralize bad actors?

    Yeah probably. Though this raises a real question that doesn't seem to get asked much. Would surgical strikes have worked in Afghanistan?

    I for one seriously doubt it. It would not have eliminated the terrorist training camps on the ground in Afghanistan, and I really don't believe surgical strikes could have taken them out.

    I don't see any point in our continued occupation of Afghanistan. But once we do pull out, I wouldn't promise they won't put new training camps up again. Odds are high that they will.

    What to do about that little problem? Bush was right about one thing, Islamic terrorism is way more powerful with state sponsorship than without. Nation building of course is idiocy.

    I don't know how you motivate a place like Afghanistan to make sure state sponsorship doesn't happen again. If it was me I'd nuke them at least once, maybe twice just to make sure they get it. Then nuke them into literal oblivion if another terrorist training camp is found over there (or anywhere else). Message to world: you train 'em, you glow for it.

    But we've got too many people who would bitch-scream-cry over it today.

    We're not up to fighting this kind of war. They are.

  • ||

    "Seriously, isn't this the way most people, left, right and center, want the 'global war or terror' (even if you don't want to call it that) to be fought? Small footprint quick strikes with no collateral damage that neutralize bad actors?"

    Sure, if you can guarantee success 100% of the time. But when things go more along the lines of what happened with the last helicopter incursion into Somalia, everyone decides it's a good idea to fuck off back home and wait around until something really big of ours blows up. How likely is it that the prick we killed in this strike was motivated like the rest of AQ when we high-tailed it out of Somalia last time? Quick strikes are great when they work, and in a place like Somalia which is neither land-locked nor very organized, they might work 50% of the time or better. But we don't have the "ninjas in black" Clinton wanted for Afghanistan w/o a logistical nightmare and if withdrawal is an easy option, it's often the option the pols are tempted to take.

  • somalimon||

    anarchy in somalia.... wiki seems to have a very complete article..

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "Yeah probably. Though this raises a real question that doesn't seem to get asked much. Would surgical strikes have worked in Afghanistan?

    I for one seriously doubt it. It would not have eliminated the terrorist training camps on the ground in Afghanistan, and I really don't believe surgical strikes could have taken them out."

    I know a guy who was in Special ops in the 90's. He told me that he was involved in several secret surgical attacks against terrorist bases inside Afghanistan.

  • ||

    What the fuck are we doing in Somalia?

    We have a Black President down! We have a Black President down!

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "Sure, if you can guarantee success 100% of the time. But when things go more along the lines of what happened with the last helicopter incursion into Somalia, everyone decides it's a good idea to fuck off back home and wait around until something really big of ours blows up."

    There is a huge difference between what happened in Somalia in 1993 & now. We had invaded Somalia & were trying to nation build. Like we are in Iraq & Afghanistan.

  • ||

    Two U.S. military officials said forces from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were involved. The officials gave no details about the raid or its target, and they spoke on condition of anonymity because the operation was secret.

    Apparently not secret enough!

    Seriously though, if there are military reasons for keeping this raid secret, isn't it literally treason for these officials to be blabbing about it?

  • DX||

    This is absolutely nothing at all like Clinton ordering strikes on Iraq when his poll numbers dropped. It is pure coincidence that this happened so soon after Sep 12. And when the government says that somebody is an Al Qaeda member, it is always true. I fully expect the govt to inform us shortly that we just got the number 3 guy in Al Qaeda. Again. Please drive through.

  • ||

    If it was me I'd nuke them at least once, maybe twice just to make sure they get it. Then nuke them into literal oblivion if another terrorist training camp is found over there (or anywhere else). Message to world: you train 'em, you glow for it.

    Yeah, I don't see ANY complications arising from that policy (even overlooking the moral concerns of killing civilians who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism). Unless you plan on retreating to some sort of miserable paranoid Fortress America, we're going to have interests around the world that would become immediate (and frankly LEGITIMATE) targets for retribution.

    We're not up to fighting this kind of war. They are.

    That's because they've got nothing to lose. We do. And to call al-Qaeda's accomplishments so far "fighting a war" is giving them too much credit. When everything goes perfectly for them, as it did on 9/11, the best they can manage is an itty bitty pinprick against our nation. What screwed us over was the fact that the powers that be seized it as justification for going forward with their harebrained foreign policy schemes, like an elephant stampeding after being bitten by a mosquito.

  • ||

    I don't see any point in our continued occupation of Afghanistan. But once we do pull out, I wouldn't promise they won't put new training camps up again. Odds are high that they will.

    I think the successful invasion of Afghanistan sent notice that fucking with the U.S. has consequences.

    The hanging around for years after the war was won, propping up a corrupt replacement government -- not so much so.

    Seriously though, if there are military reasons for keeping this raid secret, isn't it literally treason for these officials to be blabbing about it?

    I think you may be naive about how the military works.

    It's entirely possible that the people talking were under orders or at least suggestions from their superior officers to anonymously leak the big picture details while keeping the classified parts secret.

    I mean, this has got to help the military secure more funding for Black Ops stuff. This, for most people, would count as positive publicity.

  • ||

    We had invaded Somalia & were trying to nation build.

    We did not invade Somalia. The United States was there in support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 794 and 837. We should not have been there at all, but it was an humanitarian mission.

  • Neu Mejican||

    When everything goes perfectly for them, as it did on 9/11, the best they can manage is an itty bitty pinprick against our nation. What screwed us over was the fact that the powers that be seized it as justification for going forward with their harebrained foreign policy schemes, like an elephant stampeding after being bitten by a mosquito.

    This is a pretty good take on the basic problem. The reaction to 9/11 worked out for Bin Ladin like he had scripted it. Sad really.

    I think the successful invasion of Afghanistan sent notice that fucking with the U.S. has consequences.

    The hanging around for years after the war was won, propping up a corrupt replacement government -- not so much so.


    It is possible that small countries who were considering collaboration with Al Qaeda will be less likely to go ahead with that collaboration. But, that said, Al Qaeda doesn't really need the state sponsors...just states that are dysfunctional enough to allow them to operate without fear of being accosted by the local police/military. Sorta like Pakistan.

  • economist||

    Dammit, not again. I need a drink.

  • check-minus||

    Rather than letting the government stir-up shit and cause trouble, I think a better policy would be to use contracts and let private organizations do this work for us -sort of like international bounty hunters or a narrowly defined Letter of Marque.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    "We did not invade Somalia. The United States was there in support of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 794 and 837. We should not have been there at all, but it was an humanitarian mission."

    Please, that is just stupid. UN forces invaded Somalia(mainly American) to stop warlords from intentionally starving people people. The warlords were using food as a weapon, so the UN(America) decided to get rid of the bad warlords. The Delta force & Army Rangers were assisnating & arresting all the members of the most powerful warlord clan in Mogadishu. They were in the process of capturing high level members of the clan when the blachhawks got shot down. Delta Force doesn't do humanitarian missions.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    check-minus,

    Do you really think that the people being attacked aren't going to connect the dots as to who is attacking them? If a government hires mercenaries to attack its enemies. It's still the government attacking it's enemies.

  • ||

    Cabeza de Vaca

    Somalia started out as a humanitarian mission under Bush the elder. The Marines were sent in to protect food shipments. The show of force essentially ended any attacks on escorted convoys. Any clashes that did occur were purely defensive in nature and no warlord was given any preference or sanction over any other.

    Under Clinton the mission crept and changed from to more and more aggressive attacks on one warlord to the apparent advantage of another. The rationale for taking sides like this was never clearly explained.

    The culmination of this was the Blackhawk down incident.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    Sending armed forces into a civil war & conflict breaks out. Who would imagine that could happen? I am well aware of what the UN & President Bush claimed they were doing. I personally don't believe it was ever just about feeding people & neither did the Somalians.

  • ||

    Good point.

    But there still was a point where the US forces stopped taking a purely defensive posture and started taking sides with one of the factions.

    I have never heard a good explanation as to why we should have picked one particular gang over another.

    All in all it serves as an object lessen about armed intervention. Like all lessons, though, what you learn probably depends on what you believed before you started the class.

  • Cabeza de Vaca||

    Unfornately, we probably won't ever know for certain why the one warlord was chosen over the other. The Somalian clan that the UN was attacking claimed that the then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who was from Egypt. Was using the UN forces to carry out Egyptian foreign policy. They claimed that Egypt was allied with the rival clan. There is really no way to know if they were lying about that or not at this point.

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