US, NATO Allies Prepare New Invasion Of Somalia

04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 08 Immigration, 09 Terrorism, 10 Security, 10 Transnational Crime, Military
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The 15th biennial African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda ended on July 27 with mixed results regarding support for U.S. and Western European plans to escalate foreign military intervention in nearby Somalia.

The 35 heads of state present at the three-day meeting were reported to have authorized the deployment of 2,000 more African troops to back up the beleaguered Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu and to bring the full complement of forces doing so to 8,000, but the new contingent will probably consist solely of troops from Uganda and Burundi, which supply the approximately 6,000 already serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Reports of another 2,000 reinforcements from Djibouti and Guinea are problematic and their deployment remains to be seen, not that pressure will not be exerted on those two nations and others from outside the continent.

AMISOM is the successor to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Peace Support Mission in Somalia (IGASOM) set up in 2005 by the six-member group which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda and which also was to have provided 8,000 troops for deployment to Somalia. The 53 members of the African Union except for Uganda and Burundi have been loath to commit military units to intervene in fighting in Somalia, whether against the Islamic Courts Union five years ago or against al-Shabaab insurgents currently.

In late 2006 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa to plan the earlier IGASOM operation and in January of 2007 Uganda pledged its first troops which, along with those included in a reported offer by Nigeria, were to total 8,000.

Three and a half years later, there are only 6,000 foreign troops in Somalia (now under AMISOM, the only difference being the acronym now employed) and all of those from Uganda and Burundi, both nations U.S. military clients and surrogates.

The African Union (AU) initially approved AMISOM on January 19, 2007 and granted it a six-month mandate. In July of 2010 the real prime movers behind the mission, the U.S. and its NATO allies in the European Union, are pushing for an escalation of armed intervention in Somalia with more Western-trained Ugandan troops conducting open combat operations: Changing the mandate from, to use the terms employed to mask military aggression, peacekeeping to peace enforcement.   The first attempt by the U.S. and its non-African allies to enforce a compliant government in the Horn of Africa nation, Ethiopia's invasion in December of 2006, was assisted by the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command (headed up by now retired General Stanley McChrystal until early in 2006), which conducted military operations inside Somalia no later than the beginning of the next year. At the time Ethiopia was the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid in Africa (another of the three countries bordering Somalia, Djibouti, being the first) and American military personnel were stationed in the country. Logistical and other assistance was provided by the Pentagon for the operation.

On the sidelines of the recently concluded African Union summit U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson “gathered the presidents of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Uganda, along with the prime minister of Ethiopia for a closed-door session” to push for more aggressive military operations in Somalia. The State Department official was quoted as saying, “We came away even more united and committed to work together strengthen the TFG, to help strengthen AMISOM, to help strengthen the forces for stability in Somalia and to help do as much as we can to help beat al-Shabab. Al-Shabab represents a foreign and a negative influence that cannot only be destructive inside Somalia, but across the entire region.” [1]

Note the opprobrium attached to the word foreign. With what Carson called “a wake-up call not only for the region but for Africa as a whole” [2] sounded by deadly bombings in the Ugandan capital on July 11, more foreign troops armed, trained, and airlifted by great powers in North America and Europe are destined for deployment to Somalia.

Officials from the European Union and from Britain and France – the two main historical colonial masters on the African continent – were present at the meeting with Carson and America's East African proxies. [3] A Voice of America report on the closed-door meeting reminded readers that “The European Union, the United Nations and the United States are the main financial contributors to the African Union's AMISOM peacekeeping force in Somalia.” [4]

The arm-twisting produced few results. Despite claims by the chairman of the African Union Commission, Gabon's Jean Ping, that troops from Djibouti and Guinea (Conakry) would join AMISOM/IGAD forces from Uganda and Burundi, the additional troops will almost surely come entirely from the last two nations. Also, the nearly three dozen heads of state at the AU summit rejected the Ugandan (and Western) demand for a “peace enforcement” rules of engagement mandate.

The current chairman of the AU, president of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika, told reporters, “There have been calls for a change in the mandate to a more robust approach to the insurgent attacks in Somalia by Uganda and Burundi, to go beyond Mogadishu, (which is) their current limit, but (we) did not decide on that.”

Ping, however, indicated that the U.S. and NATO allies have not abandoned plans for intensified military operations in Somalia, stating, “We need equipment to match with the change in combat approach. We need helicopters for that. The United States and the U.K. are considering our request….” [5] He also mentioned that France could provide additional helicopters.

Even the Attorney General of the U.S., Eric Holder, attended the AU summit as the Obama administration's representative and saw fit to impose his opinions on the 53-nation organization. Before the summit began he met with several of the continent's heads of state and in prepared remarks to the summit affirmed that “The United States…recognizes that ending the threat of al-Shabaab to the world will take more than just law enforcement. That is why we are working closely with the AU to support the African Union’s Mission in Somalia. The United States applauds the heroic contributions that are being made on a daily basis by Ugandan and Burundian troops, and we pledge to maintain our support for the AU and the AU Mission in Somalia.” [6]

Lightly-armed al-Shabaab militants have now been elevated by Washington to the status of a threat to the world, though Holder's colleague Carson limited his hyperbole to branding them a “negative influence…across the entire region.” The dual bombings in Kampala, incidentally, have been attributed to the group as a warning sign to Uganda to remove (and certainly not to increase) its troops in Somalia, but in fact appear like a provocation designed to accomplish the opposite result.

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