Quarter Century After Black Hawk Down, U.S. Boosts Somalia Role
Monday May 08, 2017 - 13:41:23 in Wararka by Burhan Editor
Almost a quarter century since the U.S. withdrew from Somalia after militiamen shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and special forces took heavy losses in a battle in the capital, an al-Qaeda-backed insurgency is once again drawing U.S. attention.
President Donald Trump has given "enhanced authorities in the last several weeks” to strike al-Shabaab, General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads U.S. Africa Command, told reporters last month at Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti. "We continue to develop intelligence and develop targets. And when we have the opportunity, we will use those.” He said Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed supports the U.S. efforts.
The steps come as Trump says fighting terrorism is his top priority, the U.S. bolsters special forces in Syria and eases restrictions on military action in Yemen. Analysts say adding foreign firepower is unlikely to bring peace to Somalia, a nation wracked by decades of civil war that’s seen three foreign invasions in the past decade.
"Stepping up military engagement is only part of the solution: it won’t address fundamental problems,” said Matt Bryden, director of Sahan Research, an institute in neighboring Kenya. "Al-Shabaab is constantly evolving -- it adeptly appropriates local social and political grievances -- so defeating al-Shabaab requires a focus on engaging the population, not simply going around and killing militants.”
The U.S. ended its role after the shooting down of the two helicopters and the deaths of 18 of its troops in Mogadishu in October 1993. Other UN troops pulled out shortly afterward. The incident was recounted in Mark Bowden’s book "Black Hawk Down.”
Hussein Arab Issa, chairman of Somalia’s Defence Parliamentary Committee, didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.
The dozen 101st Airborne Division troops will train Somalia’s army on "basic logistical operations” and allow them "to better fight al-Shabaab,” Africom spokeswoman Jennifer Dyrcz said in an emailed response to questions.
U.S. advisers and technical experts are always on the ground in Somalia, said Ibrahim Ali, a former chief of intelligence in Puntland, a semi-autonomous northern territory where al-Shabaab and Islamic State are present. He and the agency’s former foreign liaison, Mohamed Muse Abdule, said that one of the largest U.S. bases in Somalia is at a southern airfield. Africom said there are no U.S. bases in the country.
Somalia’s "army still operates more like a collection of militias than a national army -- if you remove Amisom from the scene, the army is probably not even capable of holding Mogadishu,” said Bryden.
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