By Dr. Ali Bahar
The report that a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed on May 4, 2017, brought back the memory of the October clash in 1993; the “Black Hawk Down” battle between General Aideed’s militia and the American Rangers in Mogadishu. But will the reported death of one U.S. Navy SEAL officer be the beginning of the withdrawal of the American forces, again? No one knows, but you bet your money on it! A lot has changed since the end of “Operation Restore Hope”, and no one gave a favorable appraisal on the way they ran that operation, nor how poorly the Americas left the scene in hurry.
It was also an object lesson for the UN inefficacies, its lack of understanding the entangled local politics, and the slum strategy of the warlords of the day. All the same, the U.S. has since been seen delving secretly into the daily security affairs in the country, but I don’t see how few hundreds of American army forces, hiding in bunkers and keeping low profile, would impact the current situation of lawlessness. What they are doing now is a hit and run strategy with a lot of collateral damages and killings of innocent bystander. One would hope the U.S. doesn’t repeat her failed military tactics she had suffered in Mogadishu, as part of the hunt for warlord General Aideed in 1993.
That October clash left eighteen U.S. soldiers dead, seventy-eight Americans wounded, and over a 1,000 Somalis dead (no one counted the dead or the wounded Somalis). It was also reported that, in about 18 months in Somalia, an estimated thirty Americans were killed in 1992-93, but the U.S. army saved as many as 300,000 Somalis from starving to death, a laudable action (1). Nonetheless, that clash resulted in an immediate extrication and quick withdrawal of the U.S. army from Somalia. Now, after so many years of absence from the scene of the crime, the Americans are back to Somalia again with a hit and run strategy, their usual practice since 2013. What would that change? No one knows for certain, but probably nothing will change. It’s not the same Somalia of 1991-1994, and it is not about chasing Mohamed Farah Aideed and his militia anymore.
The presence of the American army in Somalia today might be just an emotional issue for them, looking for some sort of closure–to have the last laugh. But today’s Somalia is much more difficult and is a deadlier place than it was in 1992-1994. When Operation Restore Hope was launched in Somalia in December 1992, its scope was limited, “strictly humanitarian”. The U.S. was reluctant to place U.S. military forces into a civil war situation in Somalia in 1992. The U.S. military leadership feared that a peacekeeping operation didn’t fit the mission for which U.S. forces have been trained. I wonder if the U.S. military is ready now to deploy its might and machinery into Somalia if fighting broke again between the U.S. forces and the Somalis (call it Al-shabab and their supporters).
Today, the field is much more challenging with multifaced new political players operating in the region: Al-shabab (now operating as a tribal militia), and the new fortune hunters (Dubai, Qatar, the Turkish, the Chinese and Saudis). Plus, the older, blood bone lickers–such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and other African nations who are contributing to AMISOM forces, have become experts in Somalia’s affairs and they have their hands on the deck, just in case.
In addition, US public has lost its support and trust for more wars for fear the U.S. may lose more of its boys and girls, and only to see problems getting worse; such as the case in Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, Somalis from all walks of life all knew that America forces have been operating in secret bases and bunkers in all over Somalia, with a major base in Djibouti, to monitor Somalia’s security apparatus. Americans made the claim that they were training Somali forces, for the last 10 years, to fight against Al-shabaab. But we all know that has not been an effective operation with a full force of military apparatus that made a noticeable dent on Al-Shabab’s attacks. Now we are learning that Americans are preparing an exit strategy for AMISOM to leave Somalia very soon, in 2020. AMISOM is supposedly to “hand over responsibilities to local Somali security forces.” This reminds me of how American forces hurriedly left Iraq after incurring so many casualties, handing over the operation to a “trained” Iraqi army, only to find Iraq forces run away at the first sound of ISIS attack on their bases. So, shouldn’t we expect the same scenario happening with the Somali “forces”? How fully trained are the Somali forces and how many are they in terms of numbers? We don’t know!
Dr. Ali Bahar
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