Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Somalia: Why is the US in combat?

Advise, Assist, Train, yes, and, Find, Target and Destroy!

By Ed Marek, editor

December 17, 2018

AFRICOM: Under the radar


There is a lot going on in and around the Horn of Africa as we close out 2018. I want to highlight the Horn of Africa may well be the scene of efforts to change the strategic order in the Indian Ocean region. David Brewster, writing "Base race in Horn of Africa" published by The Interpreter on February 7, 2018, wrote:

"A race is underway between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey to build naval and military bases right across the Horn of Africa. This threatens to change the naval balance in the north-west Indian Ocean. But it may also presage the beginnings of a new strategic order in this complex and multipolar region where a host of major and middle powers jostle for influence and position.

"The strategic order in the Indian Ocean is changing fast. In the last few years we have seen major powers, such as China and India, building new bases in the western Indian Ocean. But we are now witnessing several Middle Eastern players building their own areas of influence. This is happening in the Horn of Africa, but is likely to spread further into the Indian Ocean.

"Although US defence forces remain in the region (including the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain), there are doubts over US staying power. This, of course, has only been amplified by the antics of the Trump administration. Regional players seem to be positioning themselves for what they see as an inevitable drawdown in US forces."

Brewster added:

"The immediate imperative behind these moves in the Horn of Africa is the growing rivalry between the two new Middle Eastern blocs: Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt on one side; and Turkey, Iran, and Qatar on the other."

This is a fascinating topic, worthy of watering closely.

Dr. David Brewster is with the National Security College at the Australian National University, where he specializes in South Asian and Indian Ocean strategic affairs. He is also a Distinguished Research Fellow with the Australia India Institute.

Introduction to AFRICOM

The time has come to assemble and call on all the information I have presented thus far. By this time you should have a pretty good idea about why our two Fallen, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, USN and Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, USA were in combat. This section should reinforce and amplify that.

The US created the African Command (AFRICOM) in February 2007. The Somali Civil War of 2006-2009 was underway. The command became fully operational on October 1, 2008. General William "Kip" Ward, USA, was its first commander.

Prior to its formation, three regional commands had responsibilities in Africa and adjacent seas. That implied the African continent was not a strategic priority.
  • CENTCOM: Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan
  • PACOM: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles
  • EUCOM: The rest of the African continent.

I'll note that CENTCOM remains responsible for Egypt because of its close association with the Mideast.

President G. W. Bush said in February 2007:

"(Africom) will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”

Unlike other unified commands, its deputy commander is a State Department official. The command message at the beginning was that AFRICOM would combine military and civil functions and have an interagency structure.

Right from the beginning, there was skepticism about what President Bush said.

Formation of AFRICOM was controversial, especially in Africa, especially in Ghana and South Africa. Two of the dominant worries in Africa were that the US would want to headquarter AFRICOM on the continent, and AFRICOM would work tor re-colonize African countries.

Bush took a five nation tour of Africa in 2008 and stopped in Ghana to explain the new command.
These are a few things he said:

  • "I want to dispel the notion that all of a sudden America is bringing all kinds of military to Africa. It's just simply not true. This is a way of making our command relevant to the strategy that we have put in place.
  • "It is a command structure that is aiming to help provide military assistance to African nations so African nations are more capable of dealing with Africa's conflicts -- like peacekeeping training.
  • "We do not contemplate adding new bases … The purpose of this is not to add military bases."

Stephanie Hanson wrote a paper, "
US Africa Command (AFRICOM)" published by the Council on Foreign Relations. She contradicts what the president said. I believe you will see this theme prevail throughout the rest of this section.

"Many of the experts who heralded the command’s creation seem to validate African concerns. Writing in World Defense Review, J. Peter Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, calls Africom’s creation 'long overdue' in light of U.S. dependence on Africa’s oil, its concern over radical Islamist groups targeting the region, and the continent’s identity as 'an arena for intense diplomatic competition with other states with global ambitions, like China.' Others note that Africom will help the United States secure vital sea lanes."

US troops upload a C-130 to help evacuate South Sudan, 2013

During October 2013, The Heritage Foundation published a paper by James Carafano and Mile Gardner, "US Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution." I understand this paper was influential when President Bush was considering the establishment of AFRICOM.

The authors' vision was AFRICOM could reduce the need for US forcer to intervene militarily on the continent. That said, the authors recommended the following:

  • Place a priority on fighting global terrorism in Africa
  • Be prepared to intervene directly in Africa when vital U.S. interests are at stake
  • Assist African states with the specific military support they need
  • Provide more military assistance to African democracies in peacetime
  • Support the establishment of an African intervention force
  • Establish an Africa Command subordinate to CENTCOM

AFRICOM has been involved in implementing all those recommendations except the last one. AFRICOM was not subordinated to CENTCOM, but instead was stood up as its own unified command. From where I sit, however, note there are no recommendations about President Bush's speech asserting AFRICOM would "promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa." Instead, the military dimension prevailed for purposes of enabling peace and security.

AFRICOM most certainly is involved in humanitarian and economic development efforts, and enhancing partner capacity. However I believe the facts I will present support the thesis that AFRICOM's main mission is military. On July 30, 2014 President Obama's National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the United States Institute of Peace:

"America’s engagement with Africa is fundamentally different. We don’t see Africa as a pipeline to extract vital resources, nor as a funnel for charity. The continent is a dynamic region of boundless possibility and, as President Obama said in Cape Town last year, we’re building 'a partnership of equals that focuses on your capacity to solve problems, and your capacity to grow.' …

"Contrary to some claims, the United States is not looking to militarize Africa or maintain a permanent military presence. But we are committed to helping our partners confront transnational threats to our shared security … we are stepping up our efforts to train peacekeepers who are professional and effective forces who can secure the region, and by extension the global community, against terrorist threats, and against threats that derive from conflict."

Recall for a moment what I said at the beginning of this report:

"Commonly held perspectives tell us our forces in Somalia are there to train, advise, and assist Somali forces, and hang back behind those forces should a combat situation develop.

"The obvious question then is, why did these men, SEAL Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken and Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, USA Special Forces, get killed in combat in Somalia?"

US African Command

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) is a geographic unified combatant command. "Unified" simply means its members are from two or more military services. Most understand "combatant:" at war, fighting, battling.

AFRICOM is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, General Thomas Waldhauser, USMC, currently in command.

With regard to Somalia, AFRICOM's Public Affairs Office describes the command:

"AFRICOM provides training and security force assistance to the SNSF (Somali National Security Forces), including support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to facilitate their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in their country. Training includes advising and assisting the Somali Forces to increase their capability and effectiveness in order to bring stability and security to their country.

"There are more than 500 U.S. military personnel in Somalia, a number that fluctuates from time to time depending on training missions, operations and other security force assistance activities that are being carried out in any given month. This number includes personnel supporting the Mogadishu Coordination Center (MCC) which is a forward element of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa which coordinates training and security force assistance activities for SNSF and AMISOM."

The MCC works from the Mogadishu Airport compound "to support combined military efforts to achieve U.S. Africa Command's top priority of defeating Al-Shabaab in Somalia and successfully transitioning security functions to Somali National Security Force." Brigadier General Migel Castellanos, USA is the director of the MCC. He is also the Deputy Commanding General for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Somalia. Castellanos is the U.S. military liaison to the FGS, SNSF, and the international partners. I will discuss CJTF-HOA shortly.

With regard to AMISOM and Somalia, the Public Affairs office said on November 29, 2017:

"The U.S. has been supporting AMISOM since its inception in 2007. AMISOM … is mandated to reduce the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups, provide security in order to enable the political process at all levels, and facilitate the gradual handing over of security responsibilities from AMISOM to the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF).

"The U.S. Government has provided AMISOM with equipment, logistical support, and peacekeeping training. U.S. equipment support has included armored personnel carriers, trucks, communications equipment, water purification devices, generators, tents, night vision equipment, and helicopters. The U.S. Government has provided peacekeeping training to AMISOM through the Department of State’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program=

Learning or hearing about AFRICOM in Somalia happens infrequently. A Newsweek report of November 19, 2017:

"Covert U.S. operations have been ongoing in Somalia since at least the early 2000s, but Washington has always sought to keep troops at arm’s length from the chaos on the ground. U.S. military actions have been largely limited to drones and airstrikes, with Washington insisting its presence was in an advise-and-assist role and that Somali security forces were taking the lead."

By the end of 2017, the Pentagon said there were about 400 US military forces in Somalia. Estimates were there were only about 40 at the beginning of the year. In 2017 President Trump approved deployment of more forces. There are now about 500, consisting of special forces, trainers and logistics specialists.

Let's get into AFRICOM a bit more.

AFRICOM has no military forces of its own. It does have its own staff. It relies on many other commands, agencies, African partner nations and allied nations for military forces.

AFRICOM has multiple members on its "team." The easy ones to understand are Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Africa. They are component commands of AFRICOM that provide and train US forces to respond to AFRICOM tasks and missions.

  • The 3rd Air Force is USAF in Europe and Africa's numbered air force and is that service's air command for Africa. It is headquartered at Ramstein AB, Germany.
  • US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF) is the Navy's command for Africa. It is headquartered in Naples, Italy.
  • US Army Africa shares staff with US Army Europe. The Southern European Task Force (SETAF) is the Army's service component command of AFRICOM. It is headquartered in Vicenza, Italy.
  • Marine Forces Europe and Africa (MARFOREUR/AF) is the Marine Corps component command contribution to AFRICOM. It is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.

I'll get to three other very important team members not on this list in a moment.

General Waldhauser said in his 2017 Posture Statement that US objectives in Somalia were to neutralize al-Shabaab and enable the Federal Government of Somalia to take over security responsibilities. Additionally, in AFRICOM's June 2017 War Powers Act Report (WPR) to Congress:

“In Somalia, United States forces continue to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa'ida and its Somalia-based associated force, al-Shabaab, and ISIS-Somalia. United States forces also advise, assist, and accompany regional forces, including Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, during counterterrorism operations.”

The operative phrases in both statements are "neutralize al-Shabaab," "counter the terrorist threat,” and"accompany regional forces." All of that means Americans in combat.

Nick Turse, in a report, "
Even AFRICOM’s Own Commander Admits Its Strategy Is Not Working," published by The Nation on August 26, 2018, noted three commanders in a row have cited terrorism as their greatest challenge:
  • "I believe that the extremist threat that’s emerging from East Africa is probably the greatest concern that Africa Command will face in the near future." General Carter Ham, USA, Commander AFRICOM, March 2011-April 2013
  • "A major challenge is effectively countering violent extremist organizations, especially the growth of Mali as an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb safe haven, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabaab in Somalia.” General David Rodriguez, USA, commander Africa, April 2013-July 2016
  • "A major challenge is effectively countering violent extremist organizations, especially the growth of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and ISIL in Libya.” General Thomas Waldhauser, USMC, Commander AFRICOM, July 2016-present

It is worth noting that General Ham cited one major threat, General Rodriguez three, and General Waldhauser four. What is troubling about that is the terrorist threat seems to be expanding and growing. Turse reported Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, USA, has asserted there were another “43 malign groups” operating in Africa beyond what the previous three AFRICOM commanders have identified. Bolduc has served as the commander, Special Operations Command (SOCAFRICA) from 2015 - 2017. Bolduc also served as a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) Task Force Commander in Afghanistan from 2011-2012, and then as Deputy Director for Operations, AFRICOM from 2013-2015.

In 2016 he told a Naval Postgraduate School group:

"(Africa) happens to have a larger extremist insurgency than Iraq and Syria. That is no joke."

He has said, "(US special forces operate in) the gray zone, between traditional war and peace."

Nick Turse has written another report, "America’s Elite Troops Partner With African Forces But Pursue U.S. Aims." In that report, he said he had obtained a "declassified but heavily redacted secret report covering the years 2012-2017," which was a SOCAFRICA planning document.

The document is an eye-opener.

He reported that this document "details nearly 20 programs and activities — from training exercises to security cooperation engagements — utilized by SOCAFRICA across the continent. This wide array of low-profile missions, in addition to named operations and quasi-wars, attests to the growing influence and sprawling nature of U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) in Africa."

Turse wrote:

"Publicly, the (SOCAFRICA) command claims that it conducts its operations to 'promote regional stability and prosperity,' while Bolduc emphasizes that its missions are geared toward serving the needs of African allies. The files make clear, however, that U.S. interests are the command’s principal and primary concern — a policy in keeping with the America First mindset and mandate of incoming commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump — and that support to 'partner nations' is prioritized to suit American, not African, needs and policy goals."

Turse quoted the SOCAFRICA document saying further:

"[W]e will prioritize and focus our operational efforts in those areas where the threat[s] to United States interests are most grave. Protecting America, Americans, and American interests is our overarching objective and must be reflected in everything we do.”

Bolduc, now retired, has said special operators may go out on unilateral missions as well as combined operations. But he has . said more than that. Politico quoted Bolduc in a report published on July 2, 2018

"Our special operators not only advise and assist and accompany their partner force, but also direct it under these programs."

Bolduc has also said, "We are not any war in Africa, But our partners are.”

Neutralizing terrorists in Somalia is clearly a high priority US objective, if not the top US objective in Africa. It most certainly is the top priority for AFRICOM.

Given that, I now wish to highlight three important members of the "AFRICOM Team:" CJTF-HOA, SOCAFRICA and JSOC. Learning details about these is more difficult than pulling your own teeth.

Combined Joint Force-Horn of Africa

Combined Joint Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is a joint task force of AFRICOM. CJTF-HOA was established in 2002. Major General James D. Craig, USA, is currently in command. He is a West Point graduate and a Green Beret who has commanded Army and Special Operations Forces at every level.

Its headquarters is at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, the only permanent US base in Africa. CJTF-HOA occupies the south (bottom on the photo) side of Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. In my opinion, it is the closest thing the US has to establishing an AFRICOM headquarters on the continent.

The US began leasing it from Djibouti in 2001. The base began as a Marine Corps operation. It transferred to the Navy in 2006. Officially, it is a US Naval Expeditionary Base. It is operated by Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia via U.S. Naval Forces Africa and Commander, Navy Installations Command.

General Tommy Franks, commander CENTCOM at the time, acknowledged on October 29, 2002 the US had forces operating out of Djibouti, some 800 either ashore or afloat.

On December 12, 2002, the CJTF-HOA staff arrived off the coast of Djibouti aboard the USS Mount Whitney, a naval command ship. This photo shows the Mount Whitney command and control center for CJTF-HOA circling in the Gulf of Aden in December 2002. The CJTF would oversee operations in the Horn of Africa.

CJTF-HOA transferred off the Mount Whitney to the camp in May 2003. BBC reported on November 2, 2002 there were about 800 military members in Djibouti at the time, including special operations forces who had been there for several months. A US defense official announced that 400 Marines would join the 800 already there.

A CJTF-HOA statement of May 8, 2003 said:

"The movement of the CJTF-HOA headquarters ashore does not signal any change in focus for coalition counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, but rather represents a logical 'next step' in the progress of CJTF-HOA operations. The CJTF mission is, and will continue to be, to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorism in conjunction with coalition partners across the Horn of Africa region.

"CJTF-HOA presence in Djibouti and the duration of operations across the region are tied to accomplishment of the counter-terrorism mission, not a fixed period of time."

The statement said the total contingent at Camp Lemonier would be 1,800 once all hands were shore. In 2007 the camp expanded from 97 acres to 500. It hosts about 4,000 US and allied military and civilian people at present.

CJTF-HOA conducts combined joint military operations in its area of responsibility (AOR), which is East Africa. Combined means more than one country, and joint means more than one service. This map shows its AOR. Somalia is one country in the AOR.

CJTF-Horn of Africa published this in 2017:

"Currently, CJTF-HOA's main effort is to improve security in Somalia by neutralizing violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab and successfully transitioning security responsibilities from the Africa Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to the Somali National Security Forces."

If you read the official papers on CJTF-HOA, you would see it is engaged in many activities to "enhance partner-nation capacity." For our purposes, it is focused on enabling its East Africa partners to neutralize violent extremists throughout eastern Africa. The word "enable" can be tricky, as you have already seen in the losses of Kyle Milliken and Alexander Conrad, both American military people, both in combat, both killed in combat while "enabling" their Somali partners.

Nick Turse, writing yet another report, "Target Africa: The US Military's Expanding Footprint in East Africa and ether Arabian Peninsula" published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, provides striking information on what he terms the US military's "largely covert effort to extend its footprint across the (Africa) continent with a network of small and mostly low-profile camps." He went on to write:

"Some serve as staging areas for quick-reaction forces or bare-boned outposts where special ops teams can advise local proxies; some can accommodate large cargo planes, others only small surveillance aircraft. All have one mission in common: to eradicate what the military calls the 'tyranny of distance.' "

He identified "a secretive unit known as Task Force 48-4 … with its headquarters at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, operated from outposts in Nairobi, Kenya, and Sanaa, Yemen. The aircraft it used — manned and remotely piloted — were based out of airfields in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, as well as ships off the coast of East Africa." He quoted then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (shown here) acknowledging "that Lemonnier serves as 'a hub with lots of spokes out there on the continent and in the region.' "

Jeremy Scahill, reporting for
The Intercept, said:

"The task force’s (TF 48-4) operations, aimed at hunting down and killing or capturing members of AQAP and al Shabaab, were largely conducted with drones and fixed-wing aircraft. On occasion, small teams of special operators mounted ground operations inside Somalia and Yemen, or interdicted ships, snatching suspected terrorists. But drones were the administration’s preferred weapon."

Referring again to documents about TF-48-4, Scahill wrote:

"TF 48-4, according to the documents, did in fact have an impressive cache of firepower in Djibouti to kill or capture people approved for the kill list by the president. According to one slide, as of 2012 the base at Camp Lemonnier housed more than a dozen armed drones and additional surveillance aircraft. Its arsenal also included eight manned F-15E warplanes, which can carry so-called bunker busters — 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs."

I have not written much about done and air attacks in my report here because I have concentrated on our two Fallen, both of whom were killed in combat operations on the ground, I will say, however, that Gordon Lubold, reporting for the
Wall Street Journal August 2015 said:

"The Pentagon plans to sharply expand the number of U.S. drone flights over the next four years, giving military commanders access to more intelligence and greater firepower to keep up with a sprouting number of global hot spots, a senior defense official said … While expanding surveillance, the Pentagon plan also grows the capacity for lethal airstrikes, the most controversial part of the U.S. drone program and its rapid growth under President Barack Obama. Strikes by unmanned aircraft have killed 3,000 people or more, based on estimates by nonpartisan groups.

"The Air Force now flies most of the U.S. drone flights, including secret missions for the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan and Yemen. But the new plan would draw on the Army, as well as Special Operations Command and government contractors.

"The Pentagon plan calls for expanding the current number of daily flights—measured in so-called combat air patrols—from 61 to as many as 90 by 2019."

Turse has identified the "remote Chabelly Airfield." He reported that there were so many drone accidents at the Lemonnier airfield that the US moved its drone operations from Lemonnier to Chabelly.

Joseph Trevithick, writing "
A Guide To The Pentagon's Shadowy Network Of Bases In Africa" published by The Drive on March 1, 2017 wrote:

"In September 2013, the Air Force moved its drone force from Camp Lemonnier to a nearby but more remote airstrip to the west (of Djibouti), called Chabelly Airfield. After numerous accidents, Djiboutian authorities were reportedly concerned the pilotless planes were a risk to the regular air traffic at Djibouti-Ambouli and anyone living nearby.

"American forces at Chabelly now handle all unmanned aircraft flying out of the country. In October 2015, the Air Force pulled the last MQ-1 Predators from the Horn of Africa and inactivated the 60th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Unidentified elements now fly the MQ-9 Reaper exclusively from the site, while the 870th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron handles the administrative side of things."

The main differences between the two is that the MQ-9 is larger, heavier and more capable with greater power. It can carry 15 times more ordnance and cruise at three times the speed. The MQ-9 was designed to be a hunter-killer.

In sum, Turse underscored the secrecy of US AFRICOM operations in Africa, saying:

"Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts."

I commend all the above reports to you.

Special Operations Command Africa

Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) differs from CJTF-HOA. Its AOR includes all of the continent. It is a sub-unified command of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) but it is under the operational control of AFRICOM. It too is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Major General Marcus Hicks, USAF is its current commander.

Stars & Stripes reported on June 29, 2017 that General Waldhauser said "SOCAFRICA has more than 1,700 personnel taking part in missions and exercises in nearly 30 African countries."

Command relationships here can be knotty.

AFRICOM exercises operational control over SOCAFRICA. In turn, SOCAFRICA exercises operational control over the special forces units assigned to it, such as theater-assigned or allocated Air Force, Army, Marine, or Navy special operations forces .

Since SOCAFRICA is a SOCOM sub-unified command, USSOCOM can task it.

Depending on who is in command, USSOCOM can create conflict between itself and AFRICOM, or not.

SOCAFRICA's primary responsibility is to exercise operational control over theater-assigned or allocated Air Force, Army, Marine, or Navy special operations forces conducting operations.

We should understand what is meant by special operations. It includes advise, train and assist. It also includes killing or capturing high value targets, dismantling terrorist cells, direct action, hostage rescues, reconnaissance and covert missions working directly for CIA.

"Direct action" means "small-scale raids, ambushes, sabotage or similar actions" that in modern times have also included unconventional warfare and special reconnaissance. In short, direct action missions provide immediate response capabilities during violent conflict. These are a specialty of special operations forces.

Special operations forces are usually employed in small groups. They often rely on national level intelligence agencies like CIA and NSA, and use highly classified intelligence to plan their missions. But they collect intelligence on their own while out in the field, a very important capability that agencies such as NSA and CIA do not have.

Most of their missions are seen by the US leadership as sensitive. They operate with stealth and seek surprise. They are hunters, sharp-shooters, snipers, well-trained in hand-to-hand combat. To be blunt, the purposes of their missions are often to capture and/or kill, and depart as quickly as they can. Their rules of engagement are generally not disclosed. For all these reasons, special operations forces require top flight secrecy. Quite often they will cancel a mission if they feel they and their mission have been compromised.

Joint Special Operations Command

Now life gets more complicated. I need to acquaint you with the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC. That's about all I can do. For understandable reasons, it is about as secretive as outfits can get.

JSOC is a component command of the SOCOM. As such, it operates worldwide as does SOCOM. For our purposes, it is not subordinate to AFRICOM. So here is a good example where SOCOM and AFRICOM can cross each other. We have a situation here where both JSOC and SOCAFRICA are subordinate to SOCOM. SOCOM can task both JSOC and SOCAFRICA, theoretically with for without AFRICOM approval.

JSOC's job description says it is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques to ensure interoperability and equipment standardization. However the job description also includes executing special operations missions worldwide.

I highlighted that JSOC's mission includes conducting studies. Those of you familiar with the Indochina War will remember the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Special Operations Group, later renamed Studies and Observation Group, MACV-SOG. "Study Group" was the cover for what it really did.
Rob Brott, reporting for Historynet said:

"MACV-SOG was the elite military unit of the Vietnam War, so secret that its existence was denied by the U.S. government. The group reported directly to the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and much of its history and exploits were concealed for years from the general public by a veil of secrecy and confidentiality. The all-volunteer MACV-SOG (most were U.S. Army Special Forces 'Green Berets') carried out some of the most dangerous and challenging special operations of the Vietnam War."

JSOC strikes me as similar to MACV-SOG.

JSOC is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Ft. Bragg is the largest military installation in the world. Among many famous commands, it hosts the Army's Special Operations Command (USASOC) and the Army Special Forces Command. Thinking back to SSgt. Conrad, KIA in Somalia this year. He did not wear a Green Beret. But his unit, the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), is subordinate to the Army Special Forces Command, the latter known as the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) and Green Berets. has said, in an article entitled "Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC):"

"Units under JSOC:

  • "Delta Force
  • "Intelligence Support Activity
  • "Naval Special Warfare Development Group (Formerly known as SEAL Team 6)
  • "24th Special Tactics Squadron"

Stew Smith, reporting "Delta Force: Missions and History" for said this about the Army's Delta Force, one of JSOC's premier special forces outfits:

" 'Delta Force,' officially known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), is one of the U.S. special missions units primarily focused on the counter-terrorism mission. SFOD-Delta has been through a few name changes over the years, and even though it will likely always be known as SFOD–Delta, it was recently renamed the Combat Applications Group (CAG) and is now officially known as Army Compartmented Elements (ACE)." says, "ISA (Intelligence Support Activity) specializes in gathering human intelligence, signals intelligence, and combat. Their unique abilities are called on when other special operations forces have not been able to complete their mission due to a gap in intelligence." My guess is ISA people do most or all of this out in the field.

Most of us are familiar with SEAL Team 6. Kyle Milliken belonged to SEAL Team 6. SEAL Team 6, unlike the other SEAL Teams, has actually had a name change. It is now called the Navy Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. It is operationally under the command of the JSOC. The other SEAL teams are components of the Naval Special Warfare Command. SEAL Team 6 is also known within JSOC as Task Force Blue.

The 24th Special Tactics Squadron is the USAF component of JSOC, in the main, Combat Controllers but also Special Operations Weather Technicians, Pararescuemen and Tactical Air Control Party members. Again writes,

"Combat Controllers are trained special operations forces and certified FAA air traffic controllers. Their mission is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance, and special reconnaissance."

Wikipedia has said:

"There are an estimated 300 JSOC personnel: special operators, intelligence and imagery analysts and a dedicated UAV cell … Special operations carried out in Somalia are conducted under the codename: 'Operation Octave Dune'."

I believe JSOC has people at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

As I understand it, counter-terrorism operations in East Africa work under the overall name "Operation Octave Shield." You may recall I said US covert operations in Somalia began in 2000. A
Florida House of Representatives document dealing said "Operation Octave Shield … began in 2000."

Army Times reported on June 9, 2018 that SSgt. Conrad, USA, was killed in an operation supporting Octave Shield, "according to the Pentagon announcement." The Military Times reported on June 12, 2018, "Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, 26, died last week in an attack while supporting Operation Octave Shield, the mission focused on terrorist groups in Somalia."

Special operations usually command enormous interest in the public domain. One area that is very important is that special operations forces collect a great deal of very useful tactical intelligence. Tactical intelligence primarily responds to the needs of military field commanders so they can plan for and, if necessary, conduct combat operations. The US, especially in this section of the world, has habitually not had good Human Intelligence (HUMINT). HUMINT is normally covert intelligence gathered by agents or others, in this case special forces.

The US has been very good at collecting signals intelligence (SIGINT) and photo intelligence (PHOTINT), but over the years has cut back on HUMINT, largely, I believe, out of a preference for technical gadgets. And of course, SIGINT and PHOTINT can usually be done far more safely than HUMINT. One consistent problem with both SIGINT and PHOTINT is that the resources to do those kinds of jobs are controlled largely at the national level. In the case of Africa, it is very hard to get those resources tasked quickly to meet fast breaking tactical needs. Tactical commanders do have their own resources such as drones and airborne platforms available and they use them a lot. But both SIGINT and PHOTINT seldom provide opposing force intentions.

But now the US has a highly trained and very skilled combat force known as special operators who are able to go out into the field, talk to people and strive to learn about opposing force intentions. The can see things close-up with their own eyes, confiscate documents, and quietly get out of the area. If they cannot get out quietly, they are able to defend themselves and often can get air and artillery power and rapid reaction forces to rescue them. Furthermore, they are able to capture people who can be interrogated later.

As an aside, special operators also can collect SIGINT from out in the field and take photography while there as well.

Enormous Secrecy

I suspect you already understand why so much secrecy surrounds SOF. The decision to employ them is usually a political decision, often made without much debate or public knowledge. For our purposes, SOF are the principal US military tool now employed in Somalia.

These forces are usually employed in small groups. They are highly trained to collect intelligence. They often rely on national level intelligence agencies like CIA and NSA, and use highly classified intelligence to plan their missions. Most of their missions are seen by the US leadership as sensitive. They operate with stealth and seek surprise. They are hunters, sharp-shooters, snipers, well trained in hand-to-hand combat. To be blunt, the purposes of their missions are often to capture and/or kill, and depart as quickly as they can. Their rules of engagement are generally not disclosed. For those reasons, these forces require top flight secrecy.

General Waldhauser has said plainly:

Special operations forces go out on “high risk (missions) under extreme conditions” in Africa.

The US leadership often does not want US oversight groups to know what is happening, and they often want to hide costs of certain operations. SOF operate globally but are not confined to traditional boundaries, they do not want people to know where they are at any specific time, and they often operate outside the normal military chain of command. They often go where the US has no clear vital national interest, enabling the political leadership to engage in actions of which the public may not approve. There can be difficult questions of legality of operations regarding international law, and accountability.

All that said, most special operators are used to advise, train and assist, building capacity and setting up international partnerships. But there is always this issue: they have to observe first hand how well their training is working in combat, and that means they have to go out on combat missions with the force they are training. This in turn often demands they plan the mission, or at least assure the plan is one they would execute themselves if they had to. That in turn commonly demands they lead the forces they are training, which in turn effectively means US forces are exercising operational control over host nation forces.

That said, the line between training, advising and assisting can be blurred quickly, especially if they are suddenly attacked.

US Defense Security Guidance has caused the USSOCOM to increase its forward presence and build cooperative relationships with partner countries to deter and respond to threats, and shape the environment. That is, send the troops forward, deter and respond to threats, and shape the environment. All together that means lead in the planning and execution to make sure operations are done the way the US wants.

There is another aspect to the enormous secrecy. African countries have generally preferred secrecy when it comes to military matters. They often invoke laws to support that. Military decision making in Africa usually is made by a small cadre of military officers with some civilian participation. There is a feeling in Africa that military matters are understood only by military men. And finally there is the issue of trust. Very few people can be trusted to protect the secrecy. One party governments make the imposition of secrecy easier, especially when many of these governments are repressive and use their military to enforce that repression. In some cases the military is actually in charge of a country’s government. Finally, most Africans view the military as elite, special institutions whose operations must be kept secret.

And then there is the financing of special forces.

In 2014, Admiral William McRaven, USN, then the SOCOM commander, testified that Section 1208 was “probably the single most important authority we have in our fight against terrorism.”

Public Law 108-375 of October 28, 2004, Section 1208 addresses “Support of Military Operations to Combat Terrorism.” This section originally authorized the Secretary of Defense to spend up to $25 million during any fiscal years to “provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism.” The cap was increased to $100 million in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Section 127e 10 US Code, “Support of Special Operations to Combat Terrorism, as far as I can determine, is roughly the same as Section 1208. Without getting bogged down in legalese, public law describes the relationships between individuals and government. Every six years public laws are incorporated into the US Code. US Code is a codification of all general and permanent laws of the US. Codification simply means arranging the laws in some kind of system or according to some plan.I think that means Public Law 108-375 of October 28, 2004, Section 1208 is now Section 127e 10 US Code.

Theresa Whelan, then the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, testified about Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict before the House Armed Services Committee on May 4, 2017. She thanked the committee for “establishing Section 127e, formerly known as Section 1208, as a permanent authority.”

The idea here was to streamline and add flexibility to the funding for fast breaking and unplanned situations where the secretary of defense determines special operations forces are needed. Such fast breaking situations that apply are usually those where the US wants a small footprint and low cost approaches to respond to 21st century transnational threats.

Diplomatic Relations

I said earlier the deputy commander AFRICOM was a State Department official.

Therefore I should spend some time on diplomatic relations with Somalia. Somalia opened its embassy in Washington on November 18, 2015.

Ahmed Isse Awad is the current ambassador.

The US has been using its embassy in Nairobi, Kenya as a base for the US mission to Somalia since the US evacuated its embassy in Mogadishu in 1991.

Stephen Schwartz became the US ambassador in June 2016 and continued to work from Nairobi. However, Schwarz resigned in September 2017, citing personal reasons. He has been the president of Strategic Outcomes, LLC since April 2018.

President Obama nominated Katherine Dhanani was nominated in May 2015 but she withdrew her nomination, also citing personal reasons.

This photo shows Ambassador Schwarz meeting with President Farmajo on April 29, 2017.

Schwarz said in June 2017 the US would open a new embassy later in 2017. In 2015 the Somali president presented then Secretary of State Kerry with a deed for the property to be reserved for a new embassy. To my knowledge, such a new embassy has not yet re-opened. It does appear a new embassy building was partially erected but security concerns arising from the attack on the US mission in Benghazi caused the US to delay construction. I have learned the State Department has said it "is in the process of establishing a diplomatic mission ion Mogadishu."

Elizabeth Shackelford, the political officer in the Mission resigned in November 2017. She argued that the US has failed to place sufficient emphasis on human rights. She said the Mission’s and State Department’s influence in Somalia has waned, while the Defense Department’s has gained importance.

I understand as I am writing this report that some staff of the US Mission to Somalia has set up shop at Aden Adde airport in Mogadishu. The TFG renamed the Mogadishu airport Aden Adde on June 8, 2007. Many people still call it Mogadishu airport. Favori LLC, a Turkish firm, is running the airport. It took on the job in 2013. AMISOM forces have been protecting it.

President Trump nominated Donald Yamamoto to be the US ambassador in July 2018. The Senate confirmed him by voice vote on October 11, 2018. As I was finishing up my report, I learned that Ambassador Yamamoto has arrived in Somalia.

GaroweOnline, a publication of Radio Garowe based in Puntland reported on November 15, 2018 that Ambassador Yamamoto arrived in Mogadishu on November 15, 2018. The report said, "(Yamamoto's) arrival comes at a time when the US is expanding its military presence in Somalia."

This photo shows Ambassador Yamamoto with President Farmaajo just moments after the ambassador presented his credentials to the president. As a matter of routine, newly arriving ambassadors present their credentials at Villa Somalia, which serves as the official residence of the president. That was not the case with Yamamoto. Further, note the American flag is standing, but there is no Somali flag. When presenting in Villa Somalia, it is the opposite: Somali flag stands, and that's all. So this presentation must have been made in an American facility in Mogadishu. I'm going to talk about such facilities in a moment.

General Waldhauser visited with Yamamoto on November 27, 2018 in Mogadishu. This was Waldhauser's first visit to Somalia since May 2017. The ambassador met with the mayor of Mogadishu on November 28 and attended a "CAS Strand 2A" meeting in Mogadishu as well. CAS Strand 2A has to do with an EU program "Comprehensive Approach to Security" to stabilizing Somalia.

Two fallen special forces
The threats presented by Somalia
US policy review
Regional players enter the scene - The birth of AMISOM
AFRICOM: Under the radar
Maritime security - Efforts to secure the waterways
So what is the plan?
Postscript: "The Compound"