Thursday, 27 November 2008

Somalia: the great, hidden US policy failure since 9/11

Somalia is one of the great unrecognised US policy failures since 9/11,
according to Ken Menkhaus, a leading Somalia scholar at Davidson College
in North Carolina. He is quoted in an excellent piece on the 'hidden
Somali war' by Paul Salopek, in the Chicago Tribune.

It is a covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of warlords to
hunt down and kidnap Islamic militants and secretly imprison them
offshore aboard US warships, Salopek reports. 'It is a standoff war in
which the Pentagon lobs million-dollar cruise missiles into a
famine-haunted African wasteland the size of Texas, hoping to kill lone
terror suspects who might be dozing in candlelit huts. (The raids'
success or failure is almost impossible to verify.)'

Buried in the copy is a reference to 'what is probably the worst
humanitarian crisis in the world'. But Salopek does place the current
crisis in the context of the disastrous Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in
December 2006 - backed by the US.

He reports: 'The homegrown Islamic radicals who controlled most of
central and southern Somalia in mid-2006 certainly were no angels. They
shuttered Mogadishu's cinemas, demanded that Somali men grow beards and,
according to the US State Department, provided refuge to some 30 local
and international jihadists associated with Al Qaeda.

'But the Islamic Courts Union's turbaned militiamen had actually
defeated Somalia's hated warlords. And their enforcement of Islamic
religious laws, while unpopular among many Somalis, made Mogadishu safe
to walk in for the first time in a generation.'

Four years ago, the CIA created a mercenary force called the Alliance
for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in Somalia by
bringing together some of the world's most violent, wily and unreliable
clan militias - including gangs that had attacked US forces in the early
1990s - to confront the rising tide of Islamic militancy in Somalia's
capital, Mogadishu. And as the anarchy spread, the Somalis on the CIA
payroll engaged grim tit-for-tat exchanges of kidnappings and
assassinations with extremists.

Salopek reports on continuing US military intervention in Somalia. 'A US
missile strike in May killed the commander, Aden Hashi Ayro, enraging
Islamist militants who have since vowed to kidnap and kill any outsider
found in the country.'

All this makes it extremely difficult for Western journalists to operate
in Somalia. The bravery of those who remain must be acknowledged -
particularly as now the corporate media cover the inquest into the death
of BBC journalist Kate Peyton, fatally shot within hours of arriving in
Mogadishu in February 2005. It appears that Peyton feared that turning
down the assignment would jeopardise her career opportunities at the
BBC. While not criticising the BBC, the coroner is to recommend that
managers remind staff that refusing dangerous assignments will have no
adverse affect on their future at the corporation.

* See:,0,47

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