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AFRICOM's First War: U.S. Directs Large-Scale Offensive In Somalia

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AFRICOM's First War: U.S. Directs Large-Scale Offensive In Somalia
Rick Rozoff

Over 43 people have been killed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in the past two days in fighting between Shabab (al-Shabaab) insurgent forces, who on March 10 advanced to within one mile of the nation's presidential palace, and troops of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government. The fighting has just begun.

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The last ambassador of the United States to Somalia (1994-1995), Daniel H. Simpson, penned a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on March 10 in which which he posed the question "why, apart from the only lightly documented charge of Islamic extremism among the Shabab, is the United States reengaging in Somalia at this time?"

He answered it in stating "Part of the reason is because the United States has its only base in Africa up the coast from Mogadishu, in Djibouti, the former French Somaliland. The U.S. Africa Command was established there in 2008, and, absent the willingness of other African countries to host it, the base in Djibouti became the headquarters for U.S. troops and fighter bombers in Africa.

"Flush with money, in spite of the expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense obviously feels itself in a position to undertake military action in Africa, in Somalia." [1]

Fulfilling its appointed role, the New York Times leaked U.S. military plans for the current offensive in Somalia on March 5 in a report titled "U.S. Aiding Somalia in Its Plan to Retake Its Capital." (Note that the Transitional Federal Government is presented as Somalia itself and Mogadishu as its capital.)

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The tone of the feature was of course one of approval and endorsement of the Pentagon's rationale for directly intervening in Somalia at a level not seen since 1993 and support for proxy actions last witnessed with the invasion by Ethiopia in 2006. The report began with a description of a military surveillance plane circling over the Somali capital and a quote from the new chief of staff of the nation's armed forces, General Mohamed Gelle Kahiye: "It's the Americans. They're helping us."

Afterward "An American official in Washington, who said he was not authorized to speak publicly" - a hallmark of the American free press - was, if not identified, quoted as maintaining that U.S. covert operations were planned if not already underway and "What you're likely to see is airstrikes and Special Ops moving in, hitting and getting out." [2]

The New York Times also provided background information regarding the current offensive:

"Over the past several months, American advisers have helped supervise the training of the Somali forces to be deployed in the offensive....The Americans have provided covert training to Somali intelligence officers, logistical support to the peacekeepers, fuel for the maneuvers, surveillance information about insurgent positions and money for bullets and guns." [3]

Four days later General William ("Kip") Ward, commander of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In his introductory remarks the chairman of the committee, Senator Carl Levin, reinforced recent American attempts to expand the scope of the deepening Afghanistan-Pakistan war, the deadliest and lengthiest in the world, to the west and south in stating that "al Qaeda and violent extremists who share their ideology are not just located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region but in places like Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and Niger." [4]

In his formal report Ward pursued a similar tact and expanded the Pentagon's "counter-terrorism" (CT) area of responsibility yet further from South Asia: "U.S. Africa Command has focused the majority of its CT capacity building activities in East Africa on Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda, which - aside from Somalia - are the countries directly threatened by terrorists." [5]

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He also spoke of the current offensive by "the transition government to reclaim parts of Mogadishu," stating "I think it's something that we would look to do and support." [6]

Senator Levin and General Ward included eight African nations in the broader Afghan war category of Operation Enduring Freedom, countries from the far northeast of the continent (the Horn of Africa) to the far west (the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea). The U.S. military has already been involved in counterinsurgency operations in Mali and Niger against ethnic Tuareg rebels, who have no conceivable ties to al-Qaeda, not that one would know that from Levin's comments.

In between South Asia and Africa lies Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula. The New York Times report cited earlier reminded readers that "The United States is increasingly concerned about the link between Somalia and Yemen." Indeed as Levin's comments quoted above establish, Washington (along with its NATO allies) is forging an expanded war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and into Africa. [7]

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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