US Interventionism in Somalia Grows

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council Committee Chairman issued a letter warning against the increased use of drones over the skies of Somalia, saying such actions may violate international law. Excerpt:

The number of reports concerning the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Somalia in 2011-12 has increased in comparison with previous mandates. Several independent investigations have documented the deployment of US operated UAVs in Somalia, and other countries of the region, mostly for surveillance purposes. On at least two occasions, UAVs have reportedly been employed in targeted assassination of Al-Shabaab leaders and commanders during the course of the Monitoring Group mandate.

The Monitoring Group currently considers UAVs to be of an exclusively military; their importation to and use in Somalia therefore represents as potential violation of the arms embargo. In addition, according to article 8 of the Chicago Convention, “no aircraft capable of being flown without a pilot shall be flown without a pilot over the territory of a contracting State without special authorization by that State,” placing UAV operators in Somalia under an additional obligation to obtain approval from the TFG.

A little over two weeks later, the Los Angeles Times has published a report titled “US is the driving force behind fighting in Somalia.” The article reports that Washington is once again heavily engaged in the chaotic country. Only this time, African troops are doing the fighting and dying” while “the United States is doing almost everything else.” To regular readers of the Times, this may be news. But those visiting Antiwar.com have been reading about this for years.

The U.S. has been quietly equipping and training thousands of African soldiers to wage a widening proxy war against the Shabab, the Al Qaeda ally that has imposed a harsh form of Islamic rule on southern Somalia and sparked alarm in Washington as foreign militants join its ranks.

Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union. But in truth, according to interviews by U.S. and African officials and senior military officers and budget documents, the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon, trained and supplied by the U.S. government and guided by dozens of retired foreign military personnel hired through private contractors.

The Times does mention the fact that the current policies are apt to come back to bite us, given the US-sponsored invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in 2006 that helped give rise to the militant group al-Shabaab – now ironically justifying current interventions. Oddly, even the Obama administration has quietly acknowledged the fact that their military involvement in Somalia may create more problems than it solves, with one administration official telling the Washington Post in December there is a “concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.”

Aside from the strategic problems with this interventionism, there are those inconvenient facts about the US role there. Like, for example, the horrible conditions of secret CIA prisons in Somalia which confine uncharged individuals in terribly inhumane conditions without access to legal council. Or the fact that some of the militias we have been training are made up of former warlords and some of them have abducted children and recruited them to join the fight. Ongoing US intervention there, which even some Obama administration officials admit is not a response to any viable threat to the US, has contributed to the chaotic and poverty stricken conditions.