These military actions are part and parcel of a broader U.S. strategy to dominate the Horn of Africa. The administration of President Barack Obama has continued the military and political intervention in Somalia aimed at remaking the political landscape of the East African state, which shares borders with some of Washington’s closest collaborators in the region, including Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.
The administration’s rationale for a renewed air campaign in Somalia was to downgrade and destroy training bases for al-Shabab. The Islamist movement has not only continued its war against the Western-backed regime in Mogadishu but has crossed over into neighboring Kenya and Uganda in apparent retaliation for them having deployed troops in Somalia as members of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), established in 2007.
A Pentagon press release claimed that the area it bombed “is a training facility of al-Shabab, which is a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida. The strike was conducted using manned and unmanned aircraft and the fighters who were scheduled to depart the camp posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.” (March 7)
An escalation in the Pentagon’s air campaign in Somalia coincides with the years-long proxy war inside the country, which has resulted in the deployment of 22,000 AMISOM troops from eight different African states. They are trained, armed and given logistical support by Washington, the United Nations and the European Union. In addition, the Somalia National Army (SNA) is supplied by Western governments and their allies in an effort to defeat the al-Shabab organization, which maintains control over large areas of the country.
This bombing operation was followed on March 9 by reports that at least 15 al-Shabab fighters had been killed in another raid led ostensibly by the imperialist-backed and trained SNA troops, working in conjunction with U.S. Special Forces. News of the second attack emanated from al-Shabab itself and a Somali federal government official.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesperson for al-Shabab, stressed that foreign soldiers had attacked their base, located approximately 30 miles from Mogadishu, the capital. He said the attackers “were masked and spoke foreign languages which our fighters could not understand. We do not know who they were but we foiled them.” (Reuters, March 9)
According to Abu Musab, al-Shabab lost only one fighter, contradicting reports from other media and governmental sources. The Islamist organization said that the military commandos landed along the River Shabelle. The suspected Special Forces unit was armed with M16 rifles and rocket launchers, utilized in the attack.
U.S. government officials later announced that their military troops were involved in the attacks, alongside Western-backed Somali military forces.
Decades-long U.S. intervention deepens hostility
This war of containment, domination and control of the resource-rich Horn of Africa state began 10 years ago, when Washington attempted to impose a political dispensation on the country beginning in 2006.
The 1992-1994 occupation of Somalia by thousands of U.S. Marines, U.N. troops and forces from Canada and other states began after a popular uprising. Since then, successive U.S. administrations have sought avenues to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.
In 2006, an Islamic Courts Union (UIC) movement began to solidarize with local organizations to establish a political system that operated independently of the foreign policy imperatives of the administration of former President George W. Bush. Washington encouraged its contacts inside Somalia to force out the Islamic Courts, which proved to be a disaster.
Sentiment toward the U.S. government became even more hostile, leading to the invasion of Somalia by neighboring Ethiopia, a staunch partner of Washington in its so-called “war on terrorism.” However, the intervention of the Ethiopian military, then under the leadership of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, was by no means sufficient to drive the Islamic Courts movement out of Mogadishu and other areas in the central and south of the country where it had taken control.
Over the next three years, the Islamic Courts split over whether to enter a transitional government in Mogadishu backed by the imperialist states. By 2009, the al-Shabab group emerged as the main opposition in the capital to the U.S. and British supported regime.
The escalating deployment of forces from Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and other African states strengthened the AMISOM operation, driving al-Shabab out of most of Mogadishu and some other areas of the country in the central and southern regions.
Nevertheless, al-Shabab remained strong, attracting fighters from other countries and reportedly pledging allegiance to al-Qaida.
At present, the European Union, one of the major funding and logistical supporters of AMISOM, said it would reduce its assistance by 20 percent. This announcement has prompted sharp rebukes from those states that have served as ground units propping up the federal government in Mogadishu.
According to an article published by Jane’s Defense Weekly, “The move was criticized during a summit of leaders from AMISOM’s contributing countries in Djibouti on 28 February. Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta said in his speech that the international community must provide adequate support for the mission in the run-up to elections later this year.” (March 3)
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, “This is the time to strengthen AMISOM through a surge in troops and resources, not weaken it.”
The same Jane’s Defense Weekly report noted that “a joint declaration released at the end of the summit said the leaders noted ‘with serious concern the decision by the EU to reduce financial support to AMISOM troop allowance by 20 percent, especially during this critical phase of AMISOM operations,’ and called on the U.N. to cover the resulting shortfall.”
The Obama administration’s recent bombing of the country signals a greater reliance on airpower and the drawing down of military assistance to AMISOM and the SNA. Exposing further the dominant imperialist role in the war against al-Shabab in Somalia, AMISOM has announced that it will rely more on airpower, in light of the reduction of funding from the EU.
Kenya’s Nation newspaper stated on Feb. 21 that AMISOM “may have to concentrate more on air strikes than ground attacks in its war against al-Shabab militants to minimize expenses after one of its main donors reduced funding.”
These developments provide no real plan for reducing the escalating Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency and State Department involvement in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Africa Command (Africom), which has thousands of troops in Djibouti and other African states, has been bolstered under the Obama administration.
The absence of any substantive discussions regarding foreign policy in Africa during the presidential campaign leaves policymaking to the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, much to the detriment of people in Africa as well as the U.S. Unless this situation changes dramatically, there will be no real shift in Washington’s foreign policy in the region.