Friday, February 23, 2007

The Other Shoe Drops in Somalia

When the U.S. sent AC-130 gunships into Somalia Jan. 1 to conduct direct assaults on the Council of Islamic Courts, it was pretty obvious there was a bigger story going on, one the U.S. press was blithely and pointedly ignoring (hey, it was New Year's, everyone was hung over, right?). The New York Times has remedied this with a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Mark Mazzetti, detailing how Task Force 88 of the Central Command used an Ethiopian airfield to launch its assaults, and shared satellite intelligence with the Ethiopian military. The effort also involved F-15s flown from al-Udeid air base in Qatar, and U.S. Navy ships operating off the coast. The effort was allegedly made to track "key al-Qaeda operatives" around the small village of Ras Kamboni, but the few Islamic Courts activists tracked down in the swamps represented a sad result for a major U.S. military operation. Make no mistake, there is new terror activism going on in North Africa, but the CIC that temporarily took over Somalia was a relatively moderate Islamic bunch. Even a source like The Economist claims the U.S. would have been better off working with the CIC than providing CIA payments to the former warlords (the same factions that took down our Blackhawk in 1993) and shmoozing up to the current Ethiopian government. Linking Ethiopia closer to satellite bases in Qatar and Djibouti could be a mistake. Let's remember the great "intelligence base struggle" in the Horn of Africa during the Ford and Carter years, when the U.S. expanded and abandoned the Kagnew base in Ethiopia (now a part of Eritrea), while the U.S. and Soviet Union squabbled over an intelligence base in Berbera, Somalia. Allegiances flew back and forth all over the place during the Horn of Africa war in 1977. Payback time was reached in the warlord battles of 1992-93. And still we never learn. U.S. covert forces will be up to their necks in the collateral damage spun from the Task Force 88 actions on New Year's Day.

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