Thursday, January 11, 2007

Somalia Update II Pt. 2

In case you haven't been reading the news closely for the past week, this past Sunday the United States evidently sent an AC-130 to strafe targets in Somalia.

One target of the strike, sources said, was Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese who is married to a Somali woman and has lived in Somalia since 1993 -- the year of the attack against U.S. troops that was chronicled in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down." In a 2001 U.S. court case against Osama bin Laden, Sudani was described by a leading witness as an explosives expert who was close to the al-Qaeda leader.

More recently, Sudani was identified by U.S. intelligence as a close associate of Gouled Hassan Dourad, head of a Mogadishu-based network that operated in support of al-Qaeda in Somalia. Dourad is one of 14 "high-value" prisoners transferred last September from CIA "black sites" to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence then disclosed that Dourad "worked for the East African al-Qaeda cell led by . . . al-Sudani" and carried out at least one mission for him, related to a plan to bomb the U.S. military base in Djibouti.

Others have identified Sudani as the financier for Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed responsible for the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. All are among the senior al-Qaeda operatives the Bush administration has charged were sheltered by Somalian Islamic fundamentalists controlling Mogadishu, the country's capital. They are believed to have fled late last month when Ethiopian troops drove the fundamentalists out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.

At this point my bile is rising at the repeated insistence that these guys are Al-Qaeda. I don't know if it's this reporter or what, but let me repeat this sentence: "All are among the senior al-Qaeda operatives the Bush administration has charged were sheltered by Somalian Islamic fundamentalists controlling Mogadishu, the country's capital." Wait a second. Just a few months ago, all the Bush administration was claiming was that the SICC was harboring three men who were involved in bombing a US embassy, and that these men were suspected to have ties to members of Al-Qaeda. That's a far cry from saying we're fighting Al-Qaeda in Somalia. If you recall, Ken Menkhaus addressed this issue in my last post on Somalia:

There is a legitimate debate over whether a small number of leaders in the Islamic Courts have linkages with a small number of leaders from al Qaeda.

So which is it? Well, I'm not privy to CIA intelligence, but I'm telling you that I don't trust the Bush administration not to flat out lie when it suits their needs. Of course, with reporting like this, they don't even have to lie:

The Bush administration has been leading an international diplomatic effort to stabilize Somalia, including organizing an African peacekeeping force. It has called on leaders of Somalia's new transitional government to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with moderate members of the Islamic leadership who are not seen as terrorist facilitators and who are supported by a significant segment of Somali clans.

In the real world, it went something more like this: we supported the TFG even though its members are "former" warlords, some of whom we may have fought with in our first foray into Somalia in 1993, solely because the Bush administration cannot understand the difference between "Muslim" and "Terrorist". The Bush administration's "diplomacy" took the form violating UN sanctions by arming the warlords who formed their "anti-terrorism coalition" in support of the TFG (and so far I can't tell whether they even have troops of their own or just loaners from Ethiopia). Yes, that's right, we violated UN sanctions to arm murderous dictators. I guess when President Bush used that as an excuse to invade Iraq, he really should have said that we only care about it when you're a murderous dictator whose name begins with "Saddam" and ends in "Hussein".

The article goes on to say:

Neither effort has met with much success. African countries have been reluctant to offer troops and the new Somalian leaders have resisted negotiations.

Yeah, they "resisted negotiations" by beating the hell out of the warlords that we were backing. No wonder they weren't so open to talk after they won. Does anyone in the Bush administration even understand that those two things are directly related?

I feel it's time to quote some from a thoughtful post I liked from Bradford Plumer. One of the things that hasn't been adequately discussed, even by myself, is why this war is happening. Or perhaps it would be better to say, how this war has been allowed to happen. Read this:

Anyway, enough with predictions. I'm still trying to figure out how this war got going in the first place. The full story is long and complex, but here's one aspect that strikes me as either an appalling screw-up or something more sinister. In early December, recall, the Islamic Courts had taken control of most of Somalia, save for the town of Baidoa, where the transitional government had shacked up, protected by Ethiopian soldiers. That month, the United States pushed a resolution through the UN Security Council intended to bolster the transitional government—which had been considered an ally in the "war on terror" for quite some time.

The UN resolution partly lifted the arms embargo on Somalia, and authorized a regional force to protect the transitional government. Many Somalis interpreted it as legitimizing the 8,000 Ethiopian troops already in the country, and it seems plausible that it inflamed the situation, even though it technically barred Ethiopia from taking part in the peacekeeping force. (At the time, onlookers such as the International Crisis Group warned that it would lead to further conflict if passed.) Other Security Council members, such as Britain refused to cosponsor the resolution, finding it too inflammatory. Among other things, it came a week before the ICU and the transitional government were scheduled to meet for talks in Khartoum, effectively torpedoing that route.

One strange bit is how the resolution was passed in the first place. It came with an 90-page report from a Monitoring Group that built the case against Somalia's ruling Islamists. As best as I can tell, the group consisted of four observers who relied largely on Ethiopian and U.S. intelligence, and made a number of sensational claims that were disputed by experts—including a claim that the ICU had sent 720 fighters to fight alongside Hezbollah in Lebanon (how a relatively small militia struggling to maintain order at home could afford to send this many fighters abroad is unclear) and invited two Iranian agents to come look for uranium in exchange for arms.

Perhaps these claims are true. Then again, scare stories about U.S. foes don't have the best track record of late. But the State Department decided that negotiations with the ICU were out of the question, the UN resolution was passed, and Ethiopia eventually invaded. (Ironically, the Monitoring Group had warned strongly against loosening the arms embargo, also warning that it could lead to war.) That's not to say the UN Resolution caused the war, as Ethiopia had its own reasons for declaring the ICU a security threat, but it sure seems like the Security Council mishandled an opportunity to defuse the crisis.

So, is it a conspiracy between the Bush administration and the Ethiopian government? We get to go in and kill terrorists and Ethiopia gets a sea port? Sadly, I can believe it.

Here's where we're at now: the US has conducted multiple airstrikes in Somalia:

U.S. forces hunting al Qaeda suspects launched a new air strike on southern Somalia on Wednesday, a Somali government source said, as international criticism mounted over Washington's military intervention.

"As we speak now, the area is being bombarded by the American air force," the source told Reuters.

And we have troops on the ground in Somalia.

U.S. special operations forces are in Somalia hunting suspected al-Qaida fighters, but Pentagon officials dismissed the idea they are planning to send any large number of ground troops to the African nation.

U.S. and Somali officials said Wednesday a small American team has been providing military advice to Ethiopian and Somali forces on the ground. The officials provided little detail and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

The U.S. forces entered Somalia with Ethiopian forces late last month when Ethiopians launched their attack against the Islamic movement said to be sheltering al-Qaida figures, one of the officials said.

Mogadishu isn't as pacified as it was supposed to be either. Evidently, the residents that were all shouting for joy when the TFG troops arrived weren't all shouting for joy.

Gunfire rattled round the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, terrifying residents, as international concern grew that U.S. military strikes in Somalia may spark wider conflict there.

More on that:

Fighting continued Wednesday in the Somali capital Mogadishu and in the southern part of the country, two days after a U.S. warplane attacked alleged al-Qaeda terrorists there.

In Mogadishu, at least one government soldier was killed and several others were wounded after gunmen ambushed military posts manned by Ethiopian troops and forces loyal to the interim Somali government, a local news service reported. In the south, two heavily armed local militias clashed in Bergani. Residents also reported continued airstrikes in the region where the Ethiopian air force has been attacking Islamic militias, and where the American airstrike occurred overnight Sunday.

Now, I'm not saying you're stupid if you're reading this and asking, "Well, so what if we did kill some Somalis? Why not have Spec Ops in their catching suspected terrorists?" But I think if you don't see the problem with this kind of diplomacy (gunship diplomacy?), you're not thinking it through. While we might have a right to capture terrorists who have attacked us before, what kind of moral high ground is it when we kill 50 people along with him? As far as I know, the SICC had not, itself, sponsored any terrorist attacks of any kind. It was a more democratic government than the TFG is and it still has the backing and sympathy of a large portion of the populace. The TFG is only in power because of Ethiopian troops. As Xanthippas put it: "Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you kill 50 troops of one side, haven't you kind of intervened in a civil war?" Yeah, we have, and for no good reason.

Sure, maybe this war won't suck in our troops and money. Sure, we can abandon Somalia again and let it rot in the mire we created when we knocked off the popular government to introduce one that has no native support and is backed by a traditional enemy of the Somalis. You think this war is over that easily? I'm not hoping for this, but I seriously doubt we've heard the last of the SICC. Somalians aren't ones to let things like starvation and hardship get in the way of a good war. And what does that mean for Somalia? An even worse civil war than the one that preceded it. All because Bush and his idiots can't figure out that you can't solve every problem by killing someone.

Furthermore, never mind that this is an immoral war, it's a completely useless one that is only earning us even more enmity. The people in the towers on 9/11 didn't deserve to die, but that doesn't mean we didn't truly earn the hatred that was directed towards us. And if you wondered how anybody could hate the US that much, take a look at what we just did in Somalia.

No comments: