US regular troops enter Somalia for the first time in 20 years
January 16, 2014 Leave a comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
For the first time since 1993, when American troops left Somalia following the infamous ‘Black Hawk down’ incident, the US army has secretly stationed a group of regular troops in the troubled African country. The last time United States troops were in Somalia, in support of a wider United Nations stabilization operation, the administration of US President Bill Clinton decided to abandon the operation. The decision has been largely attributed to an incident known as “The Battle of Mogadishu”, in which nearly 20 American soldiers were killed. Images of their bodies being dragged by Somali militiamen through the streets of the capital resulted in major policy shift in Washington, with successive US administrations avoiding prolonged military engagements in Somalia ever since. In the post-9/11 era, American military and intelligence planners have deployed Predator drones against Somali targets from a US base in neighboring Djibouti, while rare cases have involved US Special Forces entering the country for a few hours at a time. Washington has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the nascent Somali military. But American Presidents have avoided any long-term military or civilian presence on the ground; Washington does not even maintain an embassy in Mogadishu —though most observers agree that the Central Intelligence Agency has operated a base there for years. On January 12, however, The Washington Post published a statement by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman Army Colonel Thomas Davis, in which he confirmed that the Pentagon recently established a “military coordination cell” in Somalia that “is now fully operational”. Prior to receiving AFRICOM’s confirmation, the paper had received anonymous tips about the presence of US troops at the Horn of Africa from “three US military officials”. According to The Post, the US contingent arrived in Somalia in October of last year, tasked with “advising and coordinating” operations by African troops against al-Shabaab. The al-Qaeda-linked group, which was formerly the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union, controls large swaths of Somali territory. The paper added that the US troops, who number approximately two dozen, act as “advisers” to the Somali government in Mogadishu, in its effort to “establish a coordination cell with Somali security forces”.