Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Yes Virginia, There is a Somalia

Pajamas Media has a huge roundup of operations in Somalia, centered on AC-130 attacks on al-Qaeda trying to flee the country for their lives. In From the Cold had these thoughts about the unwelcome arrival of the Spectre gunships, which what do you know, were part of a US component to the Ethiopian campaign all along.

You've had your triumphs in the past, but recently, you've hit a rough patch. The Ethiopian Army has invaded your safe haven in Somalia, forcing you to flee. Can't take a boat out of Mogadishu, because the U.S. Navy has blockaded the coast. Can't go north, because the Ethiopians aren't very keen on Al Qaida prisoners. So, what do you do? Head south, and hope for the best. Try to establish a new operating location among more friendly Muslims in the south. Why, here's a place we can hide.

What's that sound? Four-engine turbo-prop aircraft. Not to worry. Probably just a cargo plane.

Think again.

But it's Pajamas' Richard Miniter who has one of the longest and best informed pieces. He notes that although it has flown under the media's radar, which is obsessed with Iraq, Africa has become one of the major battlegrounds against Islamic extremism. He interviewed incoming Somalia cabinet minister Dahir Jibreel came who was  in the company of Pajamas correspondent Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.

The strike also highlights a development which largely escaped the notice of Congress and the public: Africa is becoming a major battleground in the war on terror, especially the sahel, a dry band that south of the Sahara that stretches from the Erg Iguidi of Mauritania, across Mali,Niger,Chad, Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, to Somalia’s litter-strewn shores. Sahel is Arabic for margin and the region has long been at the margin of Western thinking.

But not so for the radical Salafis. Wahabbi missionaries have canvassed this dry belt for almost two decades, transforming the Islamic practice of the region and sending record numbers of its residents on pilgrimage to Mecca. Al Qaeda, its allies and affiliates, have not been far behind. ...

Yesterday’s AC-130 strike was not the first time that American fixed-wing aircraft have swooped down over Somalia to deliver death blows to al Qaeda-allied Islamic Courts Union. Jibreel, speaking for the government of Somalia, confirmed that the U.S. planes and helicopters “flying anonymously” having been striking targets since the start of the Ethiopian surge against the ICU last month.

Indeed, Jabreel said, the U.S. and Ethiopia seemed to have been planning the military incursion for several months. He said that he saw U.S. military planes and soldiers at Wajer, a strategic air strip in Kenya, some 45 days before the Ethiopians launched their headline-making offensive.


Reflecting on the apparent suddenness of events, Miniter mused: "Only the media, not the military, has been distracted." The Media had forgotten it, but no one else had. In retrospect, the absence of media focus on events in Africa and the Horn in particular may have been a good thing because it enabled operational goals to be set, preparations made and plans executed without the distraction of politics, normally only a few steps behind the the arrival mainstream media coverage. But leaving that comment about the Media aside, Miniter's larger point should not be forgotten. The threat from extremist groups today, of which radical Islamism is the leading but not the only example, is a worldwide challenge. It is the challenge of our times and not optional.

It is like going through an old house you thought was safe and finding a slow fire smoldering everywhere under the carpet. In examining the case of the Islamic suicide cells in the Philippines it soon became apparent (to me at least) that there may be a growing alliance between the Communist insurgency and radical Islam; that Islamist cells have spread from their traditional strongholds in Mindanao, and that as a result of Muslim migrations to Luzon and the Visayas, Islamic radicals have now acquired the social infrastructure to range anywhere in the archipelago. Finally, there are intimate connections between international terrorist groups and domestic Philippine terror cells requiring a "handoff" between local law enforcement and Coalition intelligence sources each time they cross the border. If the world is going to find a solution to this confrontation that does not involve mass tragedies it had better stop thinking we can travel back to September 10, 2001.

The politicization of the Iraq war -- on both sides to be fair -- has obscured the global nature of the threat. The narratives that have grown out of Iraq provide almost entirely the wrong framework to understand the problem. Intelligent and ostensibly well-informed commentators speak as if it were possible to avoid the challenge by withdrawing forces across this or that national boundary, as if the current world crisis was still entirely an affair between nation-state actors. Nation-states are still important. But they are no longer absolutely central. They play an important role as enablers: providers of money, training and technology that is beyond the ability of individual terrorist cells, hampered in their potential for growth by the Dunbar Number, to attain. But in Africa and in every other place where borders are vague things, the distinction between states and nonstate actors is blurred and consequently the need for combined military, diplomatic and private venture initiatives without artificial constraints becomes more important. The War Terror is not the co-extensive with events in Iraq. Somalia is a reminder that. It is ironic that the place from which Bill Clinton withdrew after Blackhawk Down incident is now seeing Americans in action again. The challenge remains whether we want it or not.  Even if no one hears a tree falling in the forest, the tree still falls.


Blogger Ticker said...

For those who haven't read it, the American Thinker's retrospective on how America decided it was a good idea to fight one hand behind its back remains a good one. This is the first cousin to the idea that wars are like invitations to a party. You can leave if you don't like it. This is possible only when the enemy doesn't represent a threat to one's strategic interests. With an enemy of sufficient size and importance, you can't leave the party. But intellectual descendants of the guys who "rewrote the rules of war" as American Thinker put it, still think it is all optional. Only sometimes.

1/09/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The war is not optional,
it's location is.
Some do not want to fight it "over there", nor over here, for that matter.

No matter where the "War" is to be fought, if one does not fight to win, you may as well not fight it at all.

1/09/2007 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...

Re: The American Thinker piece -- I've argued in TCSDaily and other places that the Powell Doctrine is our undoing.

But the guy who takes it a step further is Andrew Bacevich. In his book "The New American Militarism," he outright blames Weinberger and Powell -- and some of their predecessors -- for wanting to create a doctrine that results in America never being able to wage a large scale war, period.

Bacevich's book is excellent. He is a denizen of the Left, and a frequent contributor to The Nation, but I still found his book enlightening. I interviewed him at my site sometime ago.

I'll play devil's advocate with regard to this sentence in your post:

The politicization of the Iraq war -- on both sides to be fair -- has obscured the global nature of the threat. The narratives that have grown out of Iraq provide almost entirely the wrong framework to understand the problem. Intelligent and ostensibly well-informed commentators speak as if it were possible to avoid the challenge by withdrawing forces across this or that national boundary, as if the current world crisis was still entirely an affair between nation-state actors.

1) Isn't the lack of strategic perspective among many commentators so glaringly obvious that it's probably safe to say that they don't even consider the idea of "avoiding the challenge" by withdrawing across boundaries? I think this is a position that the right has imputed and given to many commentators, when in fact they are actually motivated more by partisan bias than by any alternative strategy, even one as vacuous as that which you propose.

2) Those commentators, in their defense to your critique, would likely argue that they don't necessarily want to withdrawn and leave the party as it were. They just don't think what we are currently doing is working and Iraq is too far gone to save. It matters not to them that they have been long on talk and short on solutions for the entire time.

In short, I think you imply far more thinking than is actually present.

1/09/2007 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chester said...

Oops -- above should read "what we are currently doing is not working." Sorry.

1/09/2007 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...


Maybe I do attribute to principled pacifism what should be assigned to cluelessness and ignorance. There's a book review by Angelo Codevilla of Bob Woodwards ongoing history of the US involvement in Iraq which leaves no one -- maybe not even Woodward -- in a good light. Nothing mattered to anybody but Washington politics, if I read Codevilla's review aright.

But really, underlying it all is the visceral feeling that we really are safe as houses. And therefore more or less free to pursue our fantasies, conceits and ambitions without facing a real existential danger.

But OK. I take your point.

1/09/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

US policy towards Iran is starting to have a little more definition lately. It looks like the plan is to slowly strangle Iranian oil production and replace it over time with Iraqui oil productio.

the UN sanctions enable the US to defund Iranian oil investment. Oil production is very capital intensive. Oil producers have to drill like crazy just to maintain production at current levels. Drilling needs increase with older fields as is the case with Iran. As a result of the US cutoff of funds for Iranian oil production--the Iranian oil out put is a 1/2 million barrels below their current production quotas and shrinking by 10% annually. They won't have any oil to export in 10 years so they'll go broke. They could fund some drilling out of current revenues but those monies the Iranian government is putting into nuclear energy, bread and circuses.

So if the US is patient the Iranians will be in trouble in the not too distant future. However, this also means that Iraqui oil production has to increased substantially and reliably to compensate for 3 million barrels a day of lost Iranian production. There was news in the last couple weeks that Iraq was about to grant lisences to drill to major western oil drillers--at terms favorable to western drillers so as to enable them to work quickly to recoup their investments. (Once their investments were recouped --then terms would return to the standard model.)

1/09/2007 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

MAY 1998 : (OSAMA BIN LADEN IS INTERVIEWED BY ABC REPORTER JOHN MILLER; COMMENTS UPON HOW AMERICAN WEAKNESS ENCOURAGED HIS MEN IN SOMALIA & REMARKS ON IRAQ, CLINTON) In the first part of this interview which occurred in May 1998, a little over two months before the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden answers questions posed to him by some of his followers at his mountaintop camp in southern Afghanistan. In the latter part of the interview, ABC reporter John Miller is asking the questions.

Miller : "Describe the situation when your men took down the American forces in Somalia. "

Osama bin Laden : "After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war.
They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier.
America had entered with 30,000 soldiers in addition to thousands of soldiers from different countries in the world. As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War in which it destroyed the infrastructure and the milk and dairy industry that was vital for the infants and the children and the civilians and blew up dams which were necessary for the crops people grew to feed their families.
Proud of this destruction, America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order.
After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them.
I was in Sudan when this happened. I was very happy to learn of that great defeat that America suffered, so was every Muslim...."

Miller : "The American people, by and large, do not know the name bin Laden, but they soon likely will. Do you have a message for the American people?"

Osama bin Laden : "I say to them that they have put themselves at the mercy of a disloyal government, and this is most evident in Clinton's administration...."

- (Source: via Mia T of FreeRepublic, thanks)

1/09/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Any reduction in Al qaeda's forces is welcome news. It may be possible to use the "fly paper" trap in the African horn. But, the US must act quickly to draw the enemy in - and liquidate them.

I agree with most of Chester's comments. Although "slowly straggling Iran's oil" is probably not sufficient to cause Iran from meddling in Iraq. Iraq's oil is just too tempting for Iran.

If Iran gains control of Iran it will be a Perfecta. Iran will control huge oil assets and remove a competitor from the playing field.

I believe that the insurgent supply lines from Iran must be cut (and that goes for Iran's proxy Syria). This will probably require military action beyond Iraq. The nuclear clock is ticking in Iran. It must be stopped or severely slowed down. The sooner it is done the better.

As for OBL, he is on the bench or 6 feet under. His leadership skills are now few if any.

1/10/2007 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ledger wrote: If Iran gains control of Iraq it will be a Perfecta. Iran will control huge oil assets and remove a competitor from the playing field.

True, but several determinants regarding Iranian economic longevity have already soured to such a degree that it may be inevitable that economic strangulation is an inescapable fate for the mullahs. Firstly, the ageing, decrepit oil infrastructure that has resulted in a loss of 3-4% of petroleum - petroleum that is squandered away not due to refining capabilities but to sheer malfeasance and conscious indifference in failing to upgrade and revamp the existing infrastructure.

That would require external experts - if Iran had possessed the personnel with the expertise necessary, they would have done so a long time ago - which would entail considerable investment by foreign patrons such as China and India. But Iran has proven itself a paranoid and reckless proprietor, and contracts are contingent on the willingness of its patrons to defend Iran should the SC or US come a'knocking. An unstable source of oil is not a palatable prospect, especially for China, whose domestic consumption rate is accelerating.

Iran already has a problem with meeting domestic demand, and that poses the possible scenario in which Iran relinquishes multiple deals and stops exporting - since they don't seem to think long-term, this short-sighted measure of abruptly cutting off its patrons in order to save itself is very likely. Even the threat of an imminent pull-out will certainly deter potential investors.

Back to your suggestion that if Iran gains control of Iraq, the mullahs will be insulated from the imminent collapse of their economy. Yet we have already begun to dissuade international banks and businesses from dealing with Iran, and as charles had mentioned, the sanctions are finally taking their toll on Iran. If anything, the cost of taking over Iraq would be enormously unsustainable, catalysing Iran's economic decline. Without the expertise in terms of personnel (and we're obviously not going to offer anything to them), the essential infrastructural blueprints, the considerable capital needed to kickstart an entire overhauling - gaining Iraq's oilfields will only delay its collapse by a few more years.

One might think that it wouldn't cost Iran a single cent to gain control of Iraq through proxies like the Mahdi Army and SCIRI. Yet proxies need to be paid, and dearly so. Maliki is already showing signs that the Iraqi government might work with us, and al-Sadr (still debatable whether he is an agent of Iran or more nationalistic). Bush has surreptitiously authorised the CIA to take covert action against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Including this:

[...] In the past two weeks, Iranian Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have been shocked to find out that the Iranian currency, the rial, is no longer accepted by moneychangers there. Worse still, the Iranian rial is also disappearing from Iraqi markets where it has fallen by almost 20 per cent against the Iraqi dinar.

All that means that Tehran would now have to come up with dollars or euros to finance its clients and agents throughout the region, especially in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf.

The GWOT is getting pricey, yes. But not only for us, as it clearly indicates.

Iraq's oil is just too tempting for Iran.

Yes, and I truly believe it is that deadly temptation that will bring the Iranian regime to its knees. Think "economic disaster" or "Kurdistan".

How does "meltdown" sound to you?

1/10/2007 02:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole Iraq operation, as does any military action with an "exit strategy", is founded on the Lennonist principle that War is Over if You Want It.

This is not true of the war in which Iraq is a battle.

1/10/2007 04:44:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

"...there may be a growing alliance between the Communist insurgency and radical Islam;..."

The End of History was in fact The Death of Ideology. We by and large no longer have people being moved by An Idea. Rather, we have groups pursuing what they perceive to be their self-interests – and those include not only money and power but Freedom From Envy.

Various scams still exist to disguise true objectives, but I have come to believe that there are no real Islamic Radicals at the top of that “movement” just as there are no truly religious Christian TV Evangelists or actual Chinese Communists any more. Hitler and Stalin were not opposite ends of the spectrum but merely the Ford as compared to the Chevy of totalitarianism; they sold what they did because the Other Guy already had the local franchise.

The U.S. Military is probably the only sizeable organization in the world today that is motivated by An Idea. And perhaps that is so many of the Scam Artists so revile our military. They know the Real Deal when they see it and that recognition ultimately translates into self-loathing.

1/10/2007 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, I predict, will become the model in dealing with Jihadi crazies.

Invade with ruthless speed, take no prisoners, kill them all as fast as possible, then get the hell out. The last hold outs were told "Stay and fight and die standing up or drown in the sea."

No stupid Rules of Engagement. No Lawfare. No Information Warfare. No Courts. No thought to making the Somali's lives better or more democratic. No attention paid to the EU or UN and other ankle biters.

Quick, effective, pitiless slaughter is a beautiful thing. Bravo! Ethiopia, Bravo!

1/10/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger NavyDoc said...

The enemy has suffered a setback. We can learn much from their response. I doubt you'll hear much crying or handwringing from their corner. Since they believe in their cause, they'll keep their chins up and fight elsewhere. They're in this for the long haul. In this regard, at least, let's be more like them.

1/10/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

"Then the CIA chief drew Soufan aside and handed him a manila envelope. Inside were three surveillance photos...when Soufan realized that the agency and some people in the bureau had known for more than a year and a half that two of the hijackers were in the country, he ran into the bathroom and retched."

From p362 of The Looming Tower. Soufan was an FBI agent, one of 8 who spoke arabic, assigned to track Al Queda.

When you have multiple large agencies who are staffed at the higher levels by people who by definition can play the political game well, these agencies WILL consider the most important war to be in Washington.


1/10/2007 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff here! These IslamoNazis MUST be exterminated!

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
slaughter your enemy...

see a job worth doing
it's a job worth doing right

1/10/2007 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

This just in from VDH at National Review:

"The American people will support success and an effort to win, whatever the risks, but not stasis. We saw that with the silent approval of Ethiopia’s brutal rout of the Islamists in Somalia, and our own attack on al Qaeda there."

What is going on in Iraq is just not that hard to fix. An military many times weaker, smaller, less mobile less technologically advanced from an economically strapped basket-case nation just did in Somalia what we have been completely incompetent in doing in Iraq.

We have a glaring example of how to do it right in front of our face.

1/11/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger Bigger Diggler said...

Ethipia's lack of "Rules of Engagement" as a precondition for its rapid anihilation of Somali's jihadis is explored here:


1/11/2007 10:18:00 AM  

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