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

US policy review

To track and understand why US military people were and are in Somalia, I have to provide some relevant US policy history. I've gone back to 1960. I've had to remain focused on my objective: Understand why US military forces, especially special forces, got involved in Somalia and paid with blood. As a result, I provide only that policy history I think is material to the objective.

It is important to recognize that violence, hostilities, riots, and battles generally occurred throughout this timeline, save a few short-lived breaks. Corruption has been rampant. There has been very little rest for the weary Somalis. I will not always highlight these facts as I proceed.

Europe's maritime interests in 19th century and WWII

The Europeans became mightily interested in what came to be known as the Horn of Africa in the 19th century. The Horn of Africa consists of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The dominant interest was to obtain ports and coaling stations for ships traveling between Europe and India, especially when Suez Canal opened.

The Allies and Axis Powers clashed in the region during WWII. The Allies did not want Italy, an Axis Power which had deployed submarines and destroyers to the Eritrean port of Massawa, to control the vital sea lanes. The photo shows the Norwegian tanker James Stove burning and sinking after the Italian submarine Galieleo Galilei hit her with two torpedoes in June 1940. The Allies, mainly the British, deployed ships to the region.

Italy lost the war and lost its hold on East Africa.

Somalia independent: On its own

On June 28, 1960 British Somaliland declared independence. On July 1, 1960 it joined with the former Italian Somaliland, by this time a UN Trust Territory, to form the independent Somali Republic.

The US began to show more interest in Somalia because it was on its own, a situation which could affect free passage through the critical neighboring waterways.

Somalia's first president, President Daar (left) appointed Abdirashid Ali Shermarke (right) as Somalia's first prime minister. Somalia's policy was non-alignment. However, it had a strong rivalry with neighboring Ethiopia and needed arms and training for its army. Therefore Somalia, led by Shermarke, built ties with the USSR. The Soviets agreed to finance training and equipping of the Somali armed forces. The Soviets sent some 300 advisors to work with the Somali army.

That said, Shermarke traveled abroad pursuing a non-aligned and neutral foreign policy. He remarked in an interview that when he met with President Kennedy, he felt Kennedy understood Somalia's military needs and would meet those needs. But months later Ethiopian Emperor Hailie Selassie, a close ally of the US, essentially talked Kennedy out of that.

Despite his dealings with the Soviets, the US saw Shermarke as a young, charismatic leader. Shermarke became president in 1967. Shermarke was considered a trailblazer for democracy in Africa. He adamantly opposed imperialism, advocated freedom and independence, and sought to build a democratic state. He is said to have been at odds with the Somali military, however.

On October 15, 1969 one of Shermarke's body guards fired an automatic weapon at him at close range and killed him. The assassination remains a mystery to this day.
Mohamed Haji Ingirlis, a faculty member of History, University of Oxford, has written the Soviets were involved. He said shortly after the assassination, "Radio Mogadishu announced the military had seized power and overthrew the civilian government." Civilian leaders were arrested and the military abolished the parliament.

Ingirlis wrote further:

"Most Somalis and non-Somalis assume that Abdirashid was 'killed' due to an intractable clan rivalry over state power between contesting postcolonial elites … The Soviets and Siad Barre played a crucial role in Abdirashid’s assassination: for the former, removing a pro-Western administration was paramount, for the latter, the aim was to seize power through the ideology of a Soviet-style socialism."

I'll address Siad Barre next.

Somalia Coup d'etat: Signs on with Soviets

Supporting Ingirlis' conclusion, virtually overnight Major General Muhammad Siad Barre, the commander of the Somali army, executed a military coup d'etat. Barre was an ardent Marxist and nationalist.

Christiane Philipp, writing "
Somalia - A Very Special Case" published by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, underscores Ingirlis' views:

"It was Maj. Gen. Siad Barre who, in a bloodless coup in 1969, brought to an abrupt end the process of party-based constitutional democracy. The military coup that brought down the democratic regime defined its action as a Marxist revolution not only instituting a new political order but also proposing the radical transformation of the whole Somali society … The regime relied on the use of force and terror against the Somali population. The SRC (Supreme Revolutionary Council) pursued a course very close to the Soviet Union and in 1974 concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union."

Barre established Somalia as a one-party Marxist-Leninist socialist state. The Soviets continued to finance training and equipping Somalia's armed forces. Both the USSR and China provided non-military assistance as well. The photo shows Barre with Nikolai Podgorny who, at the time, was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Podgorny visited Somalia in 1974.

William Beecher, reporting for
The New York Times on April 9, 1973, said the Soviets had built long-range communications facilities in Somalia, and suggested this meant Soviet Naval Headquarters in Moscow could "control movements of its warships throughout the Indian Ocean."

Beecher said some 250 Soviet military advisors were in Somalia, and that "Somalia had agreed to allow Soviet medium-range jets to operate from her territory in return for Soviet agreement to expand the airfield at Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden. In recent months the Russians have supplied the tiny Somali armed forces with modest numbers of IL‐28 medium bombers, MIG‐15 fighters, P‐6 torpedo boats, armored personnel carriers and anti‐aircraft artillery. The Russians have established anchorages off the coast and sent warships on 20 visits to Berbera last year." The photo shows a group of Soviet advisors around Barre.

I'll talk more about Berbera later.

At the time of Barre's takeover of Somalia, the US was actively supporting neighboring Ethiopia, ruled by Emperor Haile Selassie.

Selassie was active in the UN, and a committed ally of the West, especially the US. The Soviets established diplomatic relations with Ethiopia in 1943, but would not get close to Ethiopia until years later. That said, the Soviets well understood the importance of Ethiopia's proximity to the Red Sea.

You can feel the Cold War's impact on the Horn of Africa warming up. The Cold War rivalry between the USSR and US would weigh on the region. In 1974 the Soviets and Somalia signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Somalia and Ethiopia had long been arch enemies, so broadly speaking we had the Soviets on one side with Somalia and the US on the other with Ethiopia.

Somalia invades Ethiopia: Soviets out, US enters

General Siad Barre held to a concept for a "Greater Somalia" where ethnic Somalis lived and comprised the dominant population. Greater Somalia in concept encompasses Somalia, Djibouti, the Ogaden in eastern Ethiopia, and Kenya's former North Eastern Province, all shown on the map in light red.

The year 1977 was a critical one for the region.

Somalia's Barre sought to begin the process of taking over those regions he viewed as Greater Somalia. His first move was to invade the Ethiopian Ogaden in July 1977. The Somali army captured most of it quickly, advancing to achieve nearly all their objectives. They also captured good deal of US arms provided to Ethiopia. Somalia had a military well supplied by the Soviets. Its army was half the size of Ethiopia's, but was equipped with plenty of armor, artillery and maneuver brigades. The air force had MiG-21 and MiG-17 fighter/bomber aircraft.

The Soviets tried to stop the Somali advance through diplomacy. Andrei Gromyko, at the time Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, hoped to mediate the conflict with the US. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US National Security Advisor, rejected the Soviet offer, feeling it would legitimize the Soviet military presence in the Horn of Africa. The Soviets scoffed, asserting the US was also in the Horn of Africa.

Herman Cohen, a former US Assistant Secretary of State and an expert on Africa affairs, wrote, "Somalia and the United States: A Long and Troubled History" published in January 2002 by allAfrica. He provides a good insight into how the American military got involved in Somalia.

There was a military mutiny in Ethiopia in 1974 that led to a general armed forces uprising. A group of army officers announced the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police and Territorial Army, or the Derg. It grew and on September 12, 1974 deposed the emperor Selassie. A few days later the Derg took control of the government.

Following all manner of power maneuvers within the Derg, the Derg elected Major Mengistu Haile Mariam as its leader. By 1977 he obtained undisputed leadership, dissolved the Derg, and established the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia .

Mengistu established Ethiopia as a Marxist-Leninist military dictatorship. In 1976 the Soviets cut a $100 million arms deal with Mengistu. Mengistu traveled to Moscow and signed a declaration of cooperation and a second arms deal.

So now both Ethiopia and Somalia were Marxist-Leninist states beholding to the Soviets. The Soviets saw they could not support both Somalia and Ethiopia in the Ogaden War. The Soviets abandoned Somalia in favor of Ethiopia.

In November 1977 some 17,000 Cuban troops started to arrive in Ethiopia. The Soviets began a massive airlift and sealift to Ethiopia of Cuban forces and weaponry and supplies, heavy weapons including artillery, rocket launchers and tanks. The photo shows Fidel Castro in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1977, just prior to the start of the Ogaden war.

The US turned away from Ethiopia after having been closely aligned with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

The photo shows Cuban artillerymen preparing to fire at Somali forces. The Cubans did the bulk of fighting against the Somalis, along with Ethiopians and Soviet advisors.

In response to the Soviet abandonment of Somalia, Somalia ordered all Soviet advisors to leave the country within seven days on November 13, 1977. The Somalis also terminated Soviet use of strategic naval facilities on the Indian Ocean and broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Soviets were ordered to decrease their embassy staff, which they did, to about 10, including the ambassador. The Somalis gave the Cubans 48 hours to get out.

The US had been trying hard to deal with Somalia for years, and moved in to support the Barre government, even though it was Marxist-Leninist. However, Cohen wrote that the US was shy about Somali aggression against the Ethiopian Ogaden. Cohen said Barre had a "constant demand for offensive weapons with which to attack Ethiopia."

President Jimmy Carter commented that when the Soviets began supporting "the communist dictator" in Ethiopia in the Ogaden War, he thought such a move to support them would be a threat to the stability of Africa.

However, he said, "Somalia should not be permitted to succeed in trying to take Ethiopian territory and I refused to give the Somali government any weapons."

The US began its relationship with Somalia in 1960, the year when Somalia got its independence and the US began to take note. The consulate in Mogadishu, opened in 1957, was upgraded to an embassy in July 1960. The US, in an effort to counter the Soviets, maintained a strong relationship with Somalia through 1989, providing about $100 million per year in economic and military aid. The photo shows President Reagan meeting with President Barre in Washington on March 11, 1982. As an aside, the US embassy in Mogadishu moved into a new compound in 1989 and became one of the largest in Africa.

Ethiopia prevailed against Somalia in the 1977 Ogaden War. Barre's popularity began to decline. That in turn provoked a rebellion. Barre, as one would expect, clamped down hard. Resistance groups sought to overthrow Barre. Because of Barre's clamping down on dissidents, the US Congress cut-off military aid to Somalia in 1989. The US would have to maintain its relations with Barre based only on economic and humanitarian aid.

Interestingly, Brzezinski said, "The Horn of Africa is not important to America … but (it) was important as a measure and a test of how the Soviets were interpreting detente." Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the US, said, "Quarrels about the Third World were getting blown out of all proportions. These disputes about Africa, Angola, and Ethiopia and Somalia, none of them were worthy."

David Shinn, writing "U.S. Policy towards the Horn of Africa," said:

"Through the late 1980s, the Cold War determined U.S. policy in the Horn … As Ethiopia slipped into the Soviet camp, the United States looked for a new ally in the Horn … As the Soviet Union turned its attention to Ethiopia, however, this opened the door for the United States to replace Soviet influence in Somalia."

Soviets invade Afghanistan. Iranian revolution: US needs Somalia bases

In 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter reacted very strongly. He saw the invasion as a serious threat to the US.

The invasion signaled to the US that the Soviets would try to push into Iran and the Persian Gulf from Afghanistan and nearby Soviet republics. That could give the Soviets direct access to the Arabian Sea-Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.

Now switch to Iran. A revolution began in Iran in 1979. Various Marxist-leaning leftist and Islamist organizations and students who opposed American imperialism supported the revolution. The royal reign collapsed on February 11, 1979. Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic theocratic republic.

Later on November 22, 1979 a group of Iranian college students who supported the Iranian Revolution took over the US Embassy in Tehran. The ensuing crisis lasted until January 20, 1981.

The Soviets had a long border with Iran and had long wanted to be entrenched in Iran.

Given the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution. The US put Somalia squarely on its radar screen. The US saw the Persian Gulf as gravely threatened. And now, the enormous instability in Somalia was a notable threat to the international seaways through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.

American eyes on Somalia's Berbera port

I need to briefly jump back to 1968 when the Soviets were entrenched in Somalia, prior to the Ogaden War.

The Soviets, in 1968, built a major naval and air facility in Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. They upgraded the docks. The port is shown here.

The airfield is about 4 miles southwest of the port facilities. The Soviets upgraded its runways.

When the Soviets abandoned Somalia in favor of Ethiopia, they left Somalia and these bases.

Now fast forward back to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian crisis. President Carter quickly instructed staff to obtain a military presence in the Persian Gulf. In his 1980 State of the Union address, Carter said:

"An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

US negotiations with Somalia began after Carter's State of the Union to obtain access and rights to the with military facilities at Berbera. On August 22, 1980 Somalia agreed to give the United States access to the port and airfield.

The US arranged with the Somali government for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to rent Berbera's airport runway as an emergency landing site for the space shuttle. Berbera's airport runway was one of Africa's longest at the time (13,582 ft).

Reports often cite this as the reason the US arranged this. If so, it was not the most important reason.

The Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1980 (CQ 1980) reported this:

"The new facilities were intended to provide landing and staging areas close to the Persian Gulf for the Pentagon's new Rapid Deployment Force."

Leslie Gelb, a former director of politico-military affairs for the State Department, testified to Congress:

"The Pentagon is not being excessive. I could imagine a situation in which the Somalis were the only country [in the Persian Gulf region] willing to let us use their military facilities.

CQ 1980 further reported:

"Robert H. Pelletreau, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Near East, Africa and South Asia international security affairs, said access to Somali ports would give the United States better control of sea lanes in the Persian Gulf area and along the African coast."

Congressional opposition to the deal then centered on providing military aid to Somalia. It cut out the military aid. But the point is the US obtained rights to the Berbera port and airport on the coast of the Gulf of Aden. Berbera would now become a centerpiece for US military planning for the defense of the Persian Gulf.

Herman Cohen wrote:

"Saudi Arabia and other Arab states surrounding the Persian Gulf said they wanted American protection from the Soviet threat, but preferred that U.S. military components remain 'over the horizon', and out of sight. The logical alternative to bases directly in the Gulf countries was to have facilities in East Africa. Thus, between 1979 and 1980, the U.S. negotiated to take over the former Soviet naval and air facility in the Somali port of Berbera and proceeded to upgrade the runway and docks in a project costing $35 million.

"With Berbera becoming a key component of U.S. military planning in the defence of the Persian Gulf region, U.S.-Somali relations became even more important to Washington."

Cohen goes on to explain, however:

Somali National Movement fighting against President Barre

"(President Said Barre presented the US with a huge human rights issue as his) dictatorship became increasingly harsh, repressive and corrupt during the decade of the 1980s. During the second half of the 1980s, Somalia sank more and more deeply into civil war and lawlessness, as various clan groups armed themselves in opposition to Siad Barre's murderous regime. In 1990, Siad Barre's military had lost control of most of the country and was reduced mainly to defending Mogadishu.

"Throughout this period, the United States continued to maintain good relations with Siad Barre because of the overriding imperative of maintaining military access to Berbera. In mid-1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, setting off a major security crisis in the Persian Gulf. It was for such a contingency that the U.S. had maintained strong ties with Siad Barre, despite his invasions of Ethiopia and his despicable human rights record.

"But in an irony of ironies, the American military suddenly found itself welcomed to the Persian Gulf and was able to base its fighting units inside Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in preparation for the fight to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Thus, the United States did not need Berbera in the Gulf War, and the reason for the friendship with Siad Barre fell away."

The timing was fortunate. Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. US forces began deploying to Saudi Arabia on August 9, 1990. The US led a massive offensive against Iraq on January 16, 1991. As it turned out, Siad Barre was forced out of power in January 1991.

Somalia falls apart: US evacuates

Somalia had been in a state of civil war since the mid-1980s. On January 26, 1991 rival clan militias in Somalia drove Siad Barre out of office. He fled Mogadishu, said to have left his unfinished dinner and said to have hidden in a tank to escape. Somalia now slumped into prolonged civil war as feuding clan lords fought against each other. A power struggle resulted. Thousands of civilians were killed or wounded. There were massive atrocities. There was a complete breakdown in civil order, criminals were everywhere in Mogadishu, and there was a massive displacement of people.


Effectively there was no central government in Somalia, a situation which would last until 2004. The photo was taken by Jean-Claude Coutasse. He has a portfolio of photos of the refugee situation during the civil war. This photo shows a feeding center for displaced people in July 1992.

Diplomatic missions in Mogadishu attempted to negotiate a cease-fire, to no effect. On December 30, 1991, violence evolved nearly exponentially. Militants entered Mogadishu and lawlessness abounded. American civilians began to flow into the US embassy seeking refuge.

The State Department authorized an evacuation on January 2, 1991. An evacuation was ordered, named "Operation Eastern Exit."

Two Navy ships, the USS Guam, an amphibious assault ship, and USS Trenton, an amphibious dock ship were offshore Oman, near Masirah Island, when the execute order came. Marines were embarked on the ships supporting "Operation Desert Shield," the US buildup of forces to protect Saudi Arabia following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Because of the need to evacuate embassy people and other non-combatants as quickly as possible, the mission planners aboard ships determined a helicopter assault was the only solution. The helicopters would have to launch while the ships moved toward Mogadishu. That was Phase One.

The problem was they were about 1,500 miles away while in anchorage. The two ships got underway on January 2, 1991. Once underway, the planners could then consider an 890 mile flight. Information came in that the situation in Mogadishu had stabilized a bit, so the ships sailed to Mogadishu under full speed. That reduced the helicopter flight to 466 miles by the time they departed their ship.

Two Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters launched from the USS Guam at night and flew to Mogadishu. They had to refuel from Marine C-130s in the air twice while en route. The helicopters landed shortly after dawn. Sixty Marines and nine Navy SEALs quickly secured the embassy compound. A USAF AC-130 gunship loitered overhead. The helicopters were on the ground for about an hour.

The Marines evacuated 60 of the 281 civilians at the compound on the first two flights. Each CH-53 could hold about 30. The first two batches of civilians were taken to the Guam. The photo shows one of the helicopters on the Guam with civilians disembarking. The 60-man Marine evacuation force remained in the embassy compound.

By Phase 2, both ships were close to Mogadishu, sitting offshore. Ten CH-46 helicopters, Navy and Marine, left Guam at night in four waves and shuttled civilians between the embassy and the Guam. All civilians at the US Embassy were successfully evacuated. Two were wounded. One hundred forty-one of the 281 civilians originally in the compound were evacuated, including the Soviet and Kenyan ambassadors.

Marine Corps Association has published an article about Operation Eastern Exit. It has good detail in it. I commend it to you.

US Ambassador James Bishop had tried to preserve the US military's permission and access to airfields and ports in Mogadishu and Berbera. But there was no way to get to those areas during the hostilities.

The US did not a diplomatic mission in Somalia until recently in 2018.

Cohen remarked:

"Thus, in January 1991, it looked as if the United States had reached the point of forgetting about Somalia, which in strategic terms had reverted to being just another troubled backwater."

Civil war raged, famine expanded, aid agencies fled, Somalis were on their own.

UN tries its hand: US forces take lead, suffer losses

UNOSOM I: Never had a chance

The Barre government fell during January 1991, and Barre fled. The state had collapsed. Forces loyal to warlord Ali Mahdi Mohamed (left) and warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed (right) fought each other. A Djibouti conference of 1991 proclaimed Muhammed president of Somalia, in part because Aideed dit not attend. After four months the two agreed to a ceasefire on March 24, 1994 following intense diplomacy.

The UN approved a peacekeeping force in April 1992. The UN created detachment of a 50 military person security force to provide humanitarian relief and help restore order. The first group of ceasefire observers arrived in Mogadishu in July 1992, known as UNOSOM I, Pakistani General Shaheen Mazharr in command.

The ceasefire was worthless. Fighting not only continued but increased. Neither warlord would agree to anything of substance. The situation continued to worsen and the famine remained unabated.

In August 1992 the UNSC authorized expansion to 3,000 troops to protect relief efforts. Five hundred Pakistani troops arrived in early October 1992. The situation worsened. Ceasefires were ignored, fighting continued, and relief operations were at great risk.

On October 28, 1992 Aideed declared he would not tolerate the Pakistani unit. Both Mohammed's and Aideed's forces began shelling the Pakistanis. By November 13 the Pakistanis, tired of continuous attacks, returned fire.

The warlords also continued to attack aid workers and convoys. The famine threatened some 1.5 million people. The UN relief mission struggled to combat the fighting and insecurity in Somalia. Most of the 3,000 troops envisioned did not come. UNOSOM I never had a chance.

A UN official said:

"The 500 Pakistani troops sent by the United Nations in early October to secure the airport, port and goods out of the capital had little hope of success. The troops were too few, their equipment inadequate and they were so under-financed that their commander, Gen. Imtiaz Shaheen, had to beg aid agencies of the United Nations, rather than the military arm, for money to help supply them. The troops, based near the airport, have become so vulnerable that snipers fired at their tents this week.”

President George H.W. Bush decides to Intervene

The American media was plastered with events associated with the enormous famine in Somalia. The constant media coverage of starving children negatively impacted the American public. The US also lacked any thought-out policy regarding such situations. In the absence of such policy, there was an inclination to follow the outcry for help. Bush felt compelled to act.

In November 1992, General Joseph Hoar, USMC, commander-in-chief US Central Command (CENTCOM) provided his estimate of the situation:

"Overall, the security environment throughout Somalia is volatile. The situation may deteriorate further because there is no centralized governmental control of Somali factions."

During November 1992 the US National Security Council (NSC) Policy Coordination Committee (PCC) for Africa, chaired by Herman Cohen, asked for a CIA assessment. CIA said many more troops than were in Somalia at this point would be required.

Edward Perkins, the US Ambassador to the UN, said the global credibility of the UN was now at stake. He argued that "a clear show of force and demonstrable willingness to use it (against the smallest bully in the block)" was now required. The idea of peacekeeping was slipping off the table. For policy makers, offensive peace enforcement appeared to be the only alternative to get food to starving Somalis.

General Hoar remained unenthusiastic., He was worried it would appear the US had decided on a unilateral action. Nonetheless, he was asked to submit military courses of action, which he did, submitting them to the JCS. Debate ensued over what to do.

On November 25, 1992, President George H.W. Bush presided over the NSC meeting.

Both General Colin Powell, USA, CJCS, and General Hoar were reluctant to intervene. Powell felt that such an intervention would result in the US having to take on a wide spectrum of Somali problems. President Bush decided to intervene anyway. He selected an option that would send in a division-size US-led coalition force under UN auspices. Bush would be out of office in January 1993, leaving the implementation to President William Clinton.

Bush underscored the mission would be "humanitarian." General Powell made it clear that US forces would have the right to stage pre-emptive attacks against threats to American forces.

Stefano Rechhia, a lecturer at Cambridge University, has taken issue with the humanitarian argument. He suggests that as the UNISOM I military effort fell apart, the US military leadership was worried they would be drawn in to fill the vacuum for a long term. Recchia said, "Hence (the military leadership) reluctantly recommended a robust US intervention in the expectation that this would allow the UN to assemble a larger peacekeeping force that would take over within months." That is, fill a vacuum, get out, and let the UN handle it.

US forces intervene

Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleberger went to the UN on November 26 to propose the Bush intervention plan to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. The UNSC approved on December 3, 1992, mainly because the US agreed to provide the lion's share of forces.

General Powell had already issued an alert order to General Hoar, on December 1, 1992.

President Bush informed the public of his decision on December 4. He underscored the mission was humanitarian. The US would not remain, and the US would secure the environment such that food aid can be delivered to the people. The US would not dictate political outcomes.

The UN created the Unified Task Force (UNITAF). Twenty-four countries contributed forces with the US contributing the vast bulk and in command. The UN approved what's known as Chapter VII of the UN Charter: These forces would create a secure environment for humanitarian relief using all necessary military means. These were not to be peacekeepers, but rather peace enforcers.

The first of what would be about 25,000 US forces began to arrive in Somalia on December 9. "Operation Restore Hope" was underway.

US Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces conducted some preliminary reconnaissance work. On December 9, 1992 about 1,000 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted an amphibious assault into Mogadishu without opposition. They were met by numerous reporters from the international media who made the landing look like a circus.

For the Marines coming ashore, this was serious business. Aboard ship, the amphibious craft that would bring them to shore had to be uploaded with heavy equipment. The operational equipment had to be securely tied down. Then the Marines had to land, set up their security perimeter, bring equipment ashore and deploy to their designated locations. Marine helicopters would travel back and forth with men and equipment, and fighter and helicopter aircraft would stand ready in case the Marines on land were attacked. This was not a trivial operation, and certainly no circus. The photo shows the inside of a well deck on the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-8) amphibious assault ship during an exercise to give you an idea of the enormity of a landing operation.

This was a major US military commitment.

The Navy was off-shore with an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and a Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) led by the USS Ranger.

Lt. General Robert Johnston, USMC, shown here, was in overall command of UNITAF.

Once on shore and ready, the Marines attacked the Port of Mogadishu and the Mogadishu Airport. That set the stage for the arrival of more US and allied forces and hardware aboard heavy transport aircraft. The photo shows Marines and their equipment on board the Air Cushioned Landing Craft (LCAC) sitting alongside the runway at the airport.

CENTCOM established a four-phase program:

  • Secure Mogadishu port and airport;
  • Secure areas inland;
  • Secure Kismayo;
  • Transition back to UNOSOM.

Woven in the plan was to secure key installations and food distribution points, and provide open and free passage of relief supplies. The plan was to expand US force levels to 28,000 augmented by about 17,000 forces from over 20 countries. The overall UNITAF force increased to 37,000 in southern and central Somalia, securing about 40 percent of the country.

The first two objectives were achieved early on in December. UNITAF had problems in Kismayo to the south, but prevailed.

The principal opposition to UNITAF were militias operated by two Somalis: General Mohamed Farah Aideed (left), arguably the most active militant, and Somali businessman Ali Mahdi Mohammed (right). Together they controlled most of southern Somalia. Southern Somalia was the main UNITAF concern. UN leaders and the US Ambassador to Mogadishu kept both warlords informed of the UNITAF force, hoping to impress them that the US was not fooling around. Aideed was not impressed or frightened. He held control of much of Mogadishu, rejected Mahdi's presidency, and was not alarmed by UNITAF's power.

UNITAF did achieve some success relieving the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. The photo shows a US Marine escort for a UN food convoy, January 1993.

US forces set up a "Tent City" near the Mogadishu airport. You can see the Blackhawk helicopters lined up center left of the photo. Mark Wilkerson wrote a memoir about his experience coming to Mogadishu in April 1993. He was with B/5 101st Airborne Division, a Black Hawk crew-chief. He wrote, "Our home was Mogadishu airport, right by the beach. A hangar with no roof (they added one within a month of our arrival), and a tent city right next door. About 8 of us to a tent."

The UNITAF force could not establish a secure environment. It received considerable hostile fire. There was no effective government, no organized police, and no disciplined Somali army. And, the UNITAF forces could not get into the north, including the important Kenya-Somali border. Not getting into the north was an issue since Kenya sent 2,300 troops to Somalia and al-Shabaab had struck into Kenya multiple times. That UNITAF did not go north in turn motivated al-Shabaab to attack into Kenya more than it had done previously. The overall political situation did not improve at all.

There was considerable tension between the UNOSOM leadership and American UNITAF leadership. General Shaheen, in charge of UNOSOM I, shown here in later life, was interviewed by BBC some time in early 1993:

“It is very easy to say, bring in the marines and bash up the blackies, you name it you’ve been here, have you seen any civic structure over here? You don’t have a post office, you don’t have telephones, you don’t have hospitals and then you say you will bring in troops to bash them up — Wrong!” 

Washington Post published an interview with General Shaheen on January 23, 1993. The Post wrote:

"Brig. Gen. Imtiaz Shaheen, commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Somalia, speaks these days with a combination of bitterness and vindication.

"Six weeks ago, the arrival of U.S. Marines here shoved Shaheen’s 500-man force aside amid arguments that it was an old-style U.N. force whose passive rules of operation were unsuited to bringing order to this land of clan warlords. But with U.S. forces beginning to pull out of Somalia and hand the job back to the United Nations, Shaheen said today, 'we’re still going to have the last laugh.'

"The 24,000 Marines here came ashore aggressively, seizing the capital’s vital facilities and many of the firearms that had reduced this country to anarchy. They have forcefully patrolled the capital’s dangerous streets, and they have fought running gun battles with Somalia’s notorious armed thugs.”

United States Forces, Somalia After Action Report and Historical Overview, The United States Army in Somalia, 1992-1994, published by the Center of Military History, US Army, reported this about the US operation in Somalia:

"While conventional forces concentrated on major cities and regions, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) moved quickly to establish a presence in the rest of the countryside, place liaison cells with allied forces, and conduct civil affairs (CA) and psychological operations (PSYOP). In early January, Special Operations Command Central, a major subordinate unit of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), deployed a small element to Mogadishu to assume command and control of all special operations forces in theater. Its headquarters, known as Joint Special Operations Forces–Somalia or JSOFOR, was responsible for planning and conducting special operations in Somalia in support of all UNITAF humanitarian relief efforts, not just those in the U.S. sector. The main operational objectives of SOF in Somalia were to make initial contact with indigenous factions and leaders, provide information to UNITAF on potentially hostile forces to aid in force protection, and provide area assessments to assist with planning for future relief and security operations."

With this you now see the US relying heavily on SOF in Somalia. On the surface it appears Shaheen had a point. Counter-insurgency required getting with the people rather than introducing a large conventional force carrying a heavy stick. This was a huge issue in the US Indochina War as well.

UNOSOM II: The UN takes control, US combat forces can exit

The fourth UNITAF objective was achieved on May 3, 1993. The UN transformed UNITAF's humanitarian-only mission into an offensive military operation to secure continued humanitarian relief, restore peace and rebuild Somalia. The photo shows Lieutenant-General Civik Bir of Turkey (second from left with blue beret), Force Commander of UNOSOM II, and Lieutenant-General Robert Johnston (third from left), USMC, Commander, UNITAF, inspecting troops at the transfer ceremony. UNOSOM II was established by the UNSC on March 26, 1993, but did not formally take over operations until May 1993.

Operational authority for the UNITAF mission was transferred to UNOSOM II. UNITAF was dissolved. All US forces part of UNITAF were withdrawn. This photo shows US-UNITAF forces boarding their plane bound for the US.

The UN authorized UNOSOM II to use force if necessary to ensure its mandate -- securing a stable environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. UNOSOM was also mandated to assist in the reconstruction of economic, social and political life.

UNOSOM II's strength was about 22,000 troops, plus 8,000 logistics and civilian staff. This photo shows Saudi forces guarding food supplies being off-loaded at Mogadishu seaport. The US contributed logistics forces to UNOSOM II. The US also created a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of about 1,200 Marines stationed aboard US Navy ships offshore Somalia. It could respond to emergencies but only with CENTCOM approval.

UNOSOM II, like UNOSOM I, lacked sufficient resources on the ground. It was unable to conduct frequent patrols of Mogadishu. That enabled General Aideed to return many of his militia and much of his equipment to the city. Aideed seemed to fear nothing, and was ready to fight.

General Thomas Montgomery, USA served as deputy military chief of UNOSOM II. United States Forces, Somalia After Action Report said this:

"General Montgomery also retained his position as commander of U.S. Forces in Somalia (USFORSOM) under Marine Corps General Joseph P. Hoar, CENTCOM commander-in-chief. Thus the U.S. forces retained their own national chain of command while inserting themselves into the UN structure. Only if the forces were committed to any combat operation would U.S. units fall under the tactical control (TACON) of the United Nations. Even in those circumstances, however, with the deputy commander of the UN force an American, U.S. national interests would remain protected."

The Christian Science Monitor reported on May 25, 1993:

"The US has seeded Americans into every level of UNISOM II, giving them effective control of the operation … US officials at the top include: retired US Navy Adm. Jonathan Howe (shown here) the UN special envoy to Somalia; his executive assistant, who is a retired three-star US general; and Major General Thomas Montgomery, USA, who, besides serving as deputy military chief for UNOSOM II, also reports directly to the Pentagon as commander of US forces in Somalia."

In an
interview by PBS, Admiral Howe underscored this point:

"The (UNOSOM II and UNITAF) staffs were fully integrated. So that was not a huge problem. What was a problem, however, was that those US forces had specific requirements; what they did had to be blessed in Washington or at least by the central command. And so therefore it wasn't necessarily a force that the commander General Bir could control, necessarily, or even General Montgomery, if he wanted to do something, it required a lot of constant liaison back and forth with the various commands in the United States."

Howe also noted that the UN mission changed right before he arrived in March 1993:

"The UN Security Council passed Resolution 814, which significantly changed the mandate for the United Nations force or for any force that was there from a pure humanitarian effort to one that looked to how the country would be left, basically to put it back on its feet, to help it economically, to help it politically to become a representative government, to help it have security in its own hands, with its own police force and its own judicial system, taking this broken and failed nation and lifting it back to its feet ."

I commend the
Howe interview to you. There is a lot of very useful background in it.

Pakistani and US forces attacked and killed

On June 5, 1993, Aideed's forces ambushed Pakistan troops searching Mogadishu for weapons belonging to his forces. Twenty four Pakistanis were killed. This photo shows a Pakistani soldier patrolling in Mogadishu on June 9, four days after the ambush. Aideed had proclaimed himself to be the president of Somalia. The UNSC promptly called for Aideed's arrest, out of keeping with the UNOSOM II Mandate. This order effectively made the UN force a warring party rather than a peacekeeper. This was a major change from what the UNSC mandated UNOSOM II to do. Now the mission was not so much to fix Somalia as it was to capture and/or kill Aideed,

I will suggest here that if the UNSC mandated that, then you know the US not only supported the change, but in all likelihood advocated it. Madeleine Albright was the US Ambassador to the UN at the time. I recall back then that many of us could not understand how US forces had been sent for humanitarian purposes and now were charged to chase Aideed. I also recall experts pointing the finger at Albright.

On August 8, 1993 four American soldiers were killed while riding in the Medina neighborhood of Mogadishu. Their Humvees struck a mine or explosive device. Three died at the scene, the fourth died later at a field hospital at the US embassy. Seven more were wounded two weeks thereafter.

US Task Force Ranger responds

As a result, on August 22, 1993 President Clinton authorized Secretary of Defense Les Aspin to send a joint special operations task force to Somalia to respond to Aideed's attacks against US forces. This decision was taken three months after US combat forces assigned to UNITAF had departed. Recall the US contribution to UNOSOM II was mainly logistics with a standby QRF aboard ship off-shore. They remained behind.

The joint special operations task force was named "Task Force Ranger" (TF Ranger), Major General William Garrison, USA in command. Garrrison's original plan was to use fewer than 30 men. But the force grew to 450. It consisted of a Delta Force squadron, a 75th Ranger company, elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Navy SEALs, and USAF pararescueman and combat controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

The task force undertaking was named "Operation Gothic Serpent." All major elements of TF Ranger were in Somalia by August 28, 1993. They flew to Mogadishu and began to hunt for Aideed. I should note the book,
United States Army in Somalia 1992-1994, said TF Ranger did not report to General Montgomery, the deputy UNOSOM II commander and commander of US forces Somalia. Instead General Garrison reported directly to General Hoar, commander in chief, CENTCOM. The TF was considered a national strategic asset and did not belong to UNOSOM II. This created a command and control issue.

Task Force Ranger was a self-contained combat outfit tasked to arrest Aideed. The UN had ordered the arrest of Aideed. But Task Force Ranger was a US directed operation to do just that.

Rangers of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Mogadishu, Somalia, part of Task Force Ranger

On September 14, 1993, only a few weeks after TF Ranger deployed to Somalia, General Montgomery sent an urgent message to CENTCOM asking for tanks and armored vehicles "at the earliest feasible date … We must ensure our own security … I believe that U.S. forces are at risk without it." Secretary of Defense Les Aspin turned down the request even though General Hoar endorsed it, and had promoted the idea, and General Powell asked Aspin to approve it. Barton Gellman, writing "The Words Behind a Deadly Decision" published by The Washington Post said three US general officers criticized Aspin's decision. Gellman quoted one of them saying,:

"Once you give them the mission, you have to give them the assets … If you don't want to give the assets, you have to redefine the mission accordingly."

General Hoar did not like the mission to arrest Aideed. According to Gellman, he sent a blistering cable to Undersecretary of State for International Affairs Frank G. Wisner and General Powell:

"After four months of operations with extraordinary help from the U.S., the U.N.'s successes have been modest, … A coherent plan which encompasses the political, humanitarian and security needs for the country has yet to emerge. Control of Mogadishu has been lost … (Rejecting) facile solutions like 'get Aideed and all will be well' … (Hoar concluded) If the only solution for Mogadishu is a large-scale infusion of troops and if the only country available to make this commitment is the United States, then it's time to reassess."

On September 25, 1993 Aideed's forces shot down a MH-60L Black Hawk helicopter (such as shown in the photo) from the 101st Airborne Division, five souls aboard, Callsign "Courage 53." They were on a night reconnaissance mission over Mogadishu. The pilots escaped, were rescued, and survived. Three other souls aboard were lost. This was the first US helicopter loss in Somalia. Courage 53 was not part of Task Force Ranger.

On October 3, 1993, TF Ranger conducted its seventh mission into Aideed's stronghold. TF Ranger forces attacked a suspected Aideed command and control center, hoping to catch Aideed himself. Wikipedia has said the force consisted of 160 men, 19 aircraft, and twelve vehicles.

Shortly after the raid on the target location, a MH-60L Black Hawk Callsign Super 61, which had been circling the city overhead, was shot down by a RPG and crashed. It was piloted by CW3 Cliff "Elvis" Wolcott, USA (left) and CW3 Donovan "Bull" Briley, USA (right). Both pilots were killed.

Another Blackhawk, "Super 62," carrying a rescue crew immediately responded, fifteen souls aboard. CWO Dan Jollata and Major Herb Rodriguez, USA were the pilots. Super 62 hovered over Super 61, and the rescue team came down to the ground by fast ropes. Jollata's aircraft was exposed and was hit in the fuselage with a RPG. He managed to control the Blackhawk and get it back to safety, though it was a controlled crash landing. Both pilots survived.
Capt Gerry Izzo (Super 65) said Super 62 landed at the seaport. The rescue team remained on the ground.

Super 68 was on the scene to insert medics and Rangers to the Super 61 crash site, but while preparing to do that, it was hit by a RPG that hit the rotor blades. Incredibly, the pilots were able to insert the medics and Rangers, and baby their crippled Blackhawk back to base. They shut the aircraft down, ran to another Blackhawk, took off and rescued Jollata and Rodriguez.

Super 62 was the only airborne equipment available, its rescue team was on the ground, and the helicopter was out of commission.

The rescue team on the ground immediately went to Super 61, saw the pilots were dead, and pulled out the two who were wounded. They were wounded but helped to defend the crash site nonetheless. A MH-6 Little Bird, Callsign "Star 41," piloted by CW 3 Karl Meier and CW4 Keith Jones, landed at the crash site, Jones jumped out and dragged the two Super 61 survivors to his aircraft, and Star 41 took off and left for the hospital. One of survivors, SSgt. Daniel Busch, later died from wounds defending the site.

Up to this point, on this day, one Blackhawk (Super 61) had been shot down, and two others were damaged and had to leave the area. Recall the Super 61 pilots were dead, two crew members were wounded and were taken out by Star 41. So all that was left pdf Super 61 was the crashed aircraft.

About 40 minutes later a second Blackhawk, Callsign "Super 64," was shot down by a RPG and crashed. Capt Gerry Izzo (Super 65) said Super 64 crashed "In the worst part of bad guy territory." CW3 Mike Durant and CW4 Ray Frank piloted Super 64. This is a photo of the Super 64 crash site. Durant was the only survivor, he was captured, and freed some 11 days later.

The photo shows the "Super 64" crew prior to the crash. WO Michael Durant, USA is standing to the far right.

This is a photo of one of the crashed Blackhawks some time later. Somalis dragged the bodies of the men of Super 64 and two from Super 62 through the streets for the next several days. The American public was horrified. The US did eventually recover their bodies.

Three Blackhawks had been damaged, with two destroyed, a total of five lost. The upshot after a long battle in Mogadishu was the US suffered 19 killed in action. Another 73 (I have also seen 84) were injured. Aideed was not found. This was known as "The Battle of Mogadishu."

I'll not go into any further details of all this. I did at least want to give you the flavor of the day if you have not seen the movie or read the book, "Blackhawk Down." There are some outstanding reports published by the
Philadelphia Inquirer. I commend them to you.

I want to say at this point I have read several accounts which said no matter what kind of force the US inserted into Somalia, Aideed himself was unimpressed and not fearful. His forces shared that perspective. For the US, TF Ranger was a political disaster, though as usual, the forces themselves were heroic and courageous.

A second US Joint Task Force responds

President Clinton decided on October 7, 1993 to reinforce those US forces in Somalia. He primarily wanted to enable a complete withdrawal of US forces by March 31, 1994. Leslie Ratliff, Lt. Col. USA, submitted a paper to the US Naval War College entitled "Joint Task Forces Somalia, A Case Study." In that paper, Ratliff said, "Their mission was to protect US bases and keep open, and secure where necessary, essential US and UN lines of communication." The force, a Joint Task Force (JTF), would remain under US command and control.

The book
United States Army in Somalia 1992-1994 said:

"In a national security policy review session held in the White House on 6 October (1993), the president directed the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David G. Jeremiah, to stop all actions by U.S. forces against Aideed except those required in self-defense. He also reappointed Ambassador Oakley as special envoy to Somalia in an attempt to broker a peace settlement and then announced that all U.S. forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than 31 March 1994. Shortly thereafter Secretary (of Defense) Aspin stepped down, taking much of the blame for what was deemed a failed policy. For all intents and purposes, the United States was now determined to withdraw from Somalia as quickly as possible. All additional forces sent would be used solely for self-defense of U.S. soldiers rather than for further offensive operations."

SecDef Les Aspin briefed reporters on October 8, 1993 that the JTF, when added to those 4,500-4,800 Americans already in Somalia, would raise the US force level there to 7,100. In addition, there would be an off-shore Marine presence of 3,600. Aspin said four AC-130 gunships were committed as well as aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln. He said the military force was to support a political solution. He did not indicate the real job was to get out.

The JTF was comprised of forces from the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), 64th Armor, 10th Mountain Division, MEU forces and more special forces. They brought Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks. Major General Carl Ernst, USA (shown here after retirement) was in command. While I will not get into this subject, there was a problem with command and control. General Montgomery was commander US Forces Somalia, while General Ernst was the JTF commander, both operating in the same area, both commanding US forces, both reporting to General Hoar, CINCENT.

Elements of the JTF began arriving in Somalia on October 13, 1993. General Ernst got there on October 15.

However, in his book,
My clan against the rest in the world: US and Coalition forces in Somalia 1992-1994, Robert Baumann said:

"It soon became clear that the Clinton administration was focused on using those forces to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. troops rather than use them to punish Aideed."

Most American forces were out by March 25 1994. All UN and US forces were out on March 3, 1995. UNSOM II was terminated. Somalia returned to anarchy and civil disorder though there was progress alleviating starvation.

I have walked you through multiple interventions employing US and UN forces from 1992 - 1995. Overall, the track record was not good, despite the unparalleled valor shown by US and allied forces.

Christiane Philipp underlines this point:

"When the UN withdrew from Somalia in 1995 the conflict was still not settled and is not settled today … Somalia is not thought of as a success story for the United Nations in the terms of political reconciliation of the conflict."

The book
Falcon Brigade, by Lawrence Casper describes the events I have briefly summarized in substantial detail.

The book,
United States Army in Somalia 1992-1994, talks to the grim track record:

"The United States entered Somalia in December 1992 to stop the imminent starvation of hundreds of thousands of people. Although it succeeded in this mission, the chaotic political situation of that unhappy land bogged down U.S. and allied forces in what became, in effect, a poorly organized United Nations nation-building operation. In a country where the United States, perhaps naively, expected some measure of gratitude for its help, its forces received increasing hostility as they became more deeply embroiled into trying to establish a stable government.

"The military and diplomatic effort to bring together all the clans and political entities was doomed to failure as each subelement continued to attempt to out-jockey the others for supreme power.

"The Somali people were the main victims of their own leaders, but forty-two Americans died and dozens more were wounded before the United States and the United Nations capitulated to events and withdrew. American military power had established the conditions for peace in the midst of a famine and civil war, but, unlike later in Bosnia, the factions were not exhausted from the fighting and were not yet willing to stop killing each other and anyone caught in the middle. There was no peace to keep. The American soldier had, as always, done his best under difficult circumstances to perform a complex and often confusing mission.

"The best soldiers in the world can only lay the foundation for peace; they cannot create peace itself."

Somalia tries to govern

The US formally ended the mission in Somalia in 1994. Warlords returned to fighting amongst themselves. Somalis bore the brunt of the brutality and sought to stick with their own clans for protection. The UN withdrew its staff and aid workers from Somalia in 2001 due to continued fighting and kidnapping.

Amidst all of this turmoil in Somalia, groups of Somalis attempted to form governing institutions. Based on my research, I will say that these attempts actually resulted in civil war. That in turn led to an Ethiopian invasion to protect one of the governance efforts fighting against another. All together, the US, remaining fearful that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would use Somalia as a base for operations elsewhere, again entered the scene.

I'll try to walk you through this labyrinth as best I can as quickly as I can. I will highlight three Somali attempts to govern that are particularly relevant to our story.

Islamic Courts Union - Rise of al-Shabaab
US begins to act again

The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) started as a coalition of Muslim legal scholars, varied Islamic judicial systems, and business people in Mogadishu and southern Somalia who, as early as 1996, saw benefit in working together. In 1999-2000, It seemed to have a potential future for building broad-based coalitions without resorting to violence. It won considerable support in southern Somalia.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, writing "How al-Shabaab was born" for The Guardian, said the ICU coalition was a mix that ranged from moderates to militants.

The militants wished to impose strict sharia law, and they were sympathetic to al-Qaeda. The militants began to build an armed force not beholding to the warlords. Those militants took on the warlords. The photo to the right shows ICU militants patrolling the streets of Mogadishu. The top photo shows ICU militia driving a machine gun mounted truck through Balad in June 2006, about 24 miles north of Mogadishu.

The Bureau of Investigation Journalism (BIJ) said Bush was sufficiently concerned his advisors thought about military attacks in Somalia because of the fear of al-Qaeda connections. SecDef Donald Rumsfeld said in 2001:

"Somalia has been a place that has harbored al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is."

BIJ added:

"Military flights in P-3 aircraft conducted surveillance while an increased number of US ships and submarines patrolled the Somali coastline. Reportedly about 100 US Special Forces operated in the country … The US has been carrying out extensive covert military operations inside Somalia since 2001."

The US launched "Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa" (OEFG-HOA) in 2002. The Combined Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) in Djibouti was tasked to execute the operation. The US 5th Fleet organized the multinational Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) to stop piracy on seas adjacent to Somalia.

I will discuss CJTF-HOA and CTF-150 in later sections.

OEF-HOA centered on regional military-to-military operations in Somalia to defeat al-Qaeda's network. To this point, coalition and US forces operated from Djibouti.
The Global Security organization reported :

"In the Summer of 2002, reports began to surface that US Special Forces were operating from Djibouti as they took part in anti-terror operations in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. These reports indicated that roughly 800 soldiers were operating from Djibouti, though it was not clear which units were involved.

"On 29 October 2002, during a Department of Defense Briefing, General Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed that forces were operating out of Djibouti, though he declined to reveal what exactly the soldiers were doing or where they were operating. He did state that there were already some 800 troops, either ashore or afloat."

Alan Dowd, reporting for the
American Legion on July 15, 2014, said:

"We know that JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) assets and conventional assets have struck targets in Somalia repeatedly since 9/11: recall the aborted SEAL raid last October against high-value al-Shabaab targets thought to have been responsible for the Kenya shopping-mall siege … The first strike of the drone war – a 2002 raid in Yemen that killed one of the planners of the
Cole bombing – originated from Lemonnier (Djibouti)."

I will address JSOC later in the AFRICOM section.

I'll pause for a moment on the October 12, 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Seventeen Sailors were killed in the attack, while 39 others were wounded. The Cole was being refuel at the Yemeni port of Aden. To my knowledge there was no US military retaliation. Having read multiple documents on who was responsible, about all I can say for sure is the US is certain Islamic terrorists conducted the operation, and al-Qaeda was likely involved involved.

The Islamist militants then part of the ICU were sympathetic to al-Qaeda and they ruled Mogadishu. That created angst in the US. Stanford University published a story on the ICU. It said:

"By (2005), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had become involved in attempting to capture Al Qaeda-linked individuals inside Somalia, which the CIA feared was becoming a haven for radical Islamists and terrorists."

Stanford also said the CIA got involved in the country's political development. It backed a coalition of warlords in Mogadishu that was unpopular. The ICU and the US backed organization fought against each other in the streets. While there were moderates in the ICU, it became synonymous with the militants. The ICU became an armed force, and much of that armed force would become al-Shabaab.

Ngugi reported reported President GW Bush was concerned about this armed force:

"This (armed force sympathetic to al-Qaeda) worried the United States so much that when George W. Bush was asked (in 2006) what he thought about the Courts (ICU), he replied: '(Our) first concern, of course, would be to make sure that Somalia does not become an al-Qaida safe haven, doesn't become a place from which terrorists plot and plan.' "

Recall GW Bush became president in January 2001, and terrorists conducted an air attack against the US on September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda was very much on this mind, so much so the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to strike at al-Qaeda terrorists.

BJI said US special forces in 2003 planted hidden hi-tech cameras along the Somali coastline to monitor al-Qaeda activities in country in operations called "Cobalt Blue" (northern coast) and "Poison Scepter" (eastern coast). They reportedly used SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) loaded aboard the USS Dallas fast attack submarine as shown in the photo.

BJI added:

"According to Sean D. Naylor of the
Army Times, beginning in 2003 teams of CIA case officers and ‘shooters’ from a special operations unit – Task Force Orange – flew into Somalia from Nairobi. Initially the teams gathered intelligence. ‘They soon expanded to include working with warlords to hunt al-Qaida members, tapping cellphones, purchasing [back] anti-aircraft missiles and, ultimately, developing a deeper understanding of al-Qaida’s East African franchise and how it fit into the wider al-Qaida network,’ Naylor reported. In an effort to develop targets, the CIA, supported by TF Orange, ran a series of missions into Mogadishu to ‘seed’ the city with devices that monitored mobile phone traffic, according to a senior military official."

Use of special forces in Somalia would become the norm for American intervention. Henceforth, American involvement in Somalia would be based on concerns about terrorists taking advantage of the instability in Somalia to set up shop there, especially al-Qaeda. I'll underscore this point: the lynchpin of US military activities in Somalia has been to get al-Qaeda.

Transitional National Government

After significant international diplomacy, a Somalia Peace Conference in Djibouti formed a Transitional National Government (TNG) for Somalia in April-May 2000. Some 3,000 representatives took part. This photo shows the second conference held in August 2000. The conference established a mandate for the TNG that it would extend only through December 31, 2003.

This was happening at about the same time as the militant ICU started taking hold.

I believe a group of clan leaders selected representatives to form a Transitional Parliament. It had over 200 members. It elected Abdiqasim Salad Hassan president. He was sworn in on August 27, 2000.

It's worth noting that Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, the new president, was from the diaspora, as was his prime minister and most government ministers. This is a normal practice in those countries in great political turmoil.

The TNG was internationally recognized as the Government of Somalia. But it only controlled parts of Mogadishu. Clan leaders controlled the rest of southern Somalia. The TNG attempted to form the organs of a national government but they did not take hold. Substantial conflict ensued.

The majority of the country’s warlords rejected the TNG and aggressively sought to undermine its effectiveness. Armed conflict between forces loyal to the fragile TNG and those loyal to Hussein Mohamed Aideed, the son of the infamous General Mohamed Farrah Aideed (shown here), engulfed Mogadishu in May and October of 2001. Warlords in various regions of the country were calling the shots, creating enormous turbulence for the TNG.

The TNG went bankrupt in December 2003. Its mandate ended on December 31, 2003.

Incidentally, Hussein Aideed is an American citizen and former US Marine. Incredibly, the Marines deployed Corporal Aideed to Mogadishu in December 1992. Her landed with the other Marines. He remained three weeks as a translator. As a result he was not there during the hunt for his father. Later on, he denounced the US attacks against his father, calling the Americans "aggressors."

Transitional Federal Government

Following the demise of the TNG, a peace conference was called in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2004. The photo shows a Somali lady reading a relevant document at the Nairobi conference. This conference in Nairobi resulted in an agreement calling for the establishment of a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and elections.

Napoleon Bamfo, writing "Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006: Motives and lessons learned" published by the African Journal of Political Science and International Relations, said, "In 2004 a regional body called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Trade and Development (IGAD) set up the Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to restore peace and order." I believe what is meant here is that the Conference achieved agreement and a document to establish the TFG, while the IGAD had the job of coordinating the TFG's set-up. Try to keep IGAD in your memory bank. I'll talk a bit about it in another section. I'll say here that IGAD was an eight country organization focused on development and drought control. Setting up a government was a bit outside its mission.

The TFG had a five-year mandate to August 20, 2009.

A Transitional Parliament was sworn in on August 22, 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya. On October 10, 2004 the parliament elected Abdullah Yusuf (standing to right in photo) interim president in 2004. He had served as president of Puntland in the north.The TNG president stepped aside enabling a peaceful transfer of the presidency. The TFG was formally established in 2005 and succeeded the TNG. The photo shows Ahmed at his swearing in ceremony in Nairobi.

This was the 14th government since 1991. It too was internationally recognized. It tried to govern Somalia from Nairobi, until 2005.

The parliament then moved to Baidoa, Somalia in February 2006. The photo shows parliamentarians meeting in Baidoa in 2006. The TFG established Baidoa as the national capital, which did not sit well with many Somalis. The government in Baidoa was protected by Ethiopian forces.

President Ahmed entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected on January 8, 2007. Ethiopian forces had shoved the ICU out of the city ten days earlier. Reports I have seen termed his arrival in Mogadishu as a "visit," so I do not think he stayed there very long on this trip, but I cannot confirm that. His ministers and the parliament remained in Baidoa.

The TFG's biggest problem was the rise of the Islamic insurgency and the TFG's inability to seek reconciliation, not an easy chore by any account. The TFG's human rights record also was not good. Overall the TFG was weak, though it did command international support.

Ethiopia invades with US in the background

Ethiopia supported the TFG and began preparing its military to act against the ICU which had been opposing the TFG violently. During December 2006 Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia. Their intent was to protect the TFG and assault ICU extremists. The US verbally supported the Ethiopian action and US aircraft attacked suspected al-Qaeda targets in Somalia. The New York Times said Ethiopia began bombing targets inside Somalia on December 24, 2006. Most Somalis detested the Ethiopians, even though the TFG approved. That sentiment resulted in Ethiopia finding the fight far more difficult than expected.

Xan Rice and Suzanne Goldenberg, writing "How US forged an alliance with Ethiopia over invasion" published by The Guardian, wrote:

"Washington and Addis Ababa may deny it, but the air strikes this week exposed close intelligence and military cooperation between Ethiopia and America, fueled by mutual concern about the rise of Islamists in the chaos of Somalia.

"Yesterday (January 11, 2007), the
Washington Post reported that US military personnel entered southern Somalia this week to verify who was killed in Monday's air strike. It was the first known instance of US boots on the ground in Somalia since the Black Hawk Down catastrophe, when 18 US soldiers were killed by Somali militiamen, the paper claimed.

"But Pentagon officials and intelligence analysts say a small number of US special forces were on the ground before Ethiopia's intervention in an operation planned since last summer, soon after the Islamic Courts Union took control of Mogadishu. Press reports have said US special forces also accompanied the Ethiopian troops crossing into Somalia.

"America's concerns came to a head last year with the rise of the Islamic Courts Union."

Rob Prince, writing "
WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia’s Arm to Invade Somalia," published by Foreign Policy in Focus, said the US, deeply involved in Iraq and Afghanistan at this time, strongly encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia. The US view according to this report was that the ICU must be destroyed.

Prince said Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, denied the US had encouraged the invasion and insisted the US had urged caution to Ethiopia. Prince added that an official US cable had been obtained that proved Frazier had been one to spearhead the invasion. Xan Rice and Suzanne Goldenberg, writing "How US forged an alliance with Ethiopia over invasion," published by The Guardian reported that Frazer through at least mid-2005 promoted negotiations between the ICU and the TFG. They said further:

"By mid-December Jendayi Frazer, the state department's top official for Africa, was echoing the message from Addis Ababa about the dangers of the Islamic Courts Union. 'The top layer of the courts are extremist to the core,' she said. 'They are terrorists and they are in control.' "

Prince also asserted General John Abizaid, commander CENTCOM, finalized the plan on December 4 (2006) during a courtesy call in Addis Ababa. Rice and Goldenberg reflected that same premise as well:

"On December 4 (2005), General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces from the Middle East through Afghanistan, arrived in Addis Ababa to meet the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. Officially, the trip was a courtesy call to an ally. Three weeks later, however, Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia in a war on its Islamist rulers, and this week the US launched air strikes against suspected al-Qaida operatives believed to be hiding among the fleeing Islamist fighters. 'The meeting was just the final handshake,' said a former intelligence officer familiar with the region."

Recall that the TFG and its parliament had moved to Baidoa earlier in 2006 and named Baidoa the national capital, since the ICU held Mogadishu. Baidoa is inland about 140 northwest of Mogadishu. ICU forces had been surrounding Baidoa focused on taking the city. TFG and Ethiopian forces on the one side and ICU forces on the other fought fiercely around the Baidoa area between December 20 and December 26, 2006. The Ethiopians employed aircraft, tanks, artillery, and rockets. The ICU started to retreat on December 26 returning to Mogadishu.

On December 27 TFG and Ethiopian forces started moving toward Mogadishu. They evicted the ICU from its control of Mogadishu on December 28, 2006.

All the efforts by Somalis to set up reliable governance evolved into the Somali Civil War of 2006-2009. It was see-saw through 2009 with regard to who controlled what portions of Mogadishu, the port Kismayo and much of southern Somalia for that matter. As was always the case, such a see-saw involved extensive fighting, violence, death, destruction and displacement.

The issue now was Somalia once again was mired in civil war. Regional players and the US then entered the picture, yet again.

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"