The Largely Secret War in East Africa

The Obama administration still denies is has anything to do with Kenya’s violent invasion of Somalia, although it is known that US drone strikes have been pounding southern Somalia, which is of course assisting the Kenyans. Some believe them, but others are skeptical, especially since the US was lending security support to Kenya as late as 2009, according to embassy cables released by WikiLeaks. Plus, the New York Times reported that despite efforts of US officials to deny the claims, Kenyan military officials have said they are receiving help from the US and France. Here a report from the East Africa:

Independent analysts in the United States tend to accept the Obama administration’s claim that it did not push Kenya into launching military action in southern Somalia.

But some of those same analysts say it is likely that the US is now providing Kenyan forces with intelligence assistance in hopes of inflicting a fatal blow on their mutual enemy: the Al Shabaab insurgency.

…according to one of the documents released by the whistleblower website, Wikileaks, dated 2009, US has been helping Kenya secure its borders.

“We are providing assistance to Kenya’s army to help them better react to major security incidents along the porous Kenya-Somali border and we are initiating a program to help the Administration Police and Wildlife Service to provide the first line of security along the border according to their mandate,” former US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger was quoted as saying.

An expert on the Horn who works in one branch of the US government told the EastAfrican that the US is almost certainly supplying the Kenyan military with intelligence gathered from American drones flying in southern Somalia.

But this analyst and others suggest that the US may simultaneously fear that Kenya’s action will backfire and leave the country even more vulnerable to Al Shabaab attacks. Al Shabaab may be weakened, they say, but it is not defeated and it does retain the ability to launch punishing operations against Kenyan civilians as well as soldiers.

If the US has in fact collaborated in Kenya’s incursion or its ongoing attacks in Somalia, it would certainly complete the trend we’ve seen from the Obama administration. About 100 combat forces have been sent to Uganda and surrounding areas like South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That takes care of Somalia’s western front. Technically secret drone bases have been recently constructed and are now operational in Ethiopia, Djibouti and perhaps Eritrea. That covers Somalia’s north and north west. The US has covert operatives and a lingering client state inside Yemen, may have a drone site in Seychelles, and patrols much of the Arabian Sea with US navy warships, taking care of Somalia’s eastern front. To have Kenya attacking southern Somalia certainly fits, circumstantially at least.

I suppose it goes without saying, but putting aside the potential for utter disaster – a worsening of the truly dire humanitarian situation in Somalia, an increasing threat of considerable civilian casualties and thus more blowback, and a nascent set of oppressive US-supported client states in East Africa – all of this Obama strategy in that region has been conducted illegally. There has been no recognition or approval from Congress and it has all been done in utter secrecy. Citizens are left to pick up the unconfirmed pieces in a region lacking the journalistic presence that might be able to mitigate the whitewash of secret war. Nobody knows exactly what US policy there is, and worse it isn’t even acknowledged that we have a right to know what the government does in our name.