America's First War in Africa
US AFRICOM Launches Large-Scale
Offensive In Somalia
by Rick Rozoff
Over 43 people have been killed in the
Somali capital of Mogadishu in two days of fighting between Shabab
(al-Shabaab) insurgent forces, who on March 10 advanced to within
one mile of the nation's presidential palace, and troops of the
U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government. The fighting has
The last ambassador of the United States to Somalia (1994-1995),
Daniel H. Simpson, penned a column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
on March 10 in which which he posed the question "why, apart
from the only lightly documented charge of Islamic extremism among
the Shabab, is the United States reengaging in Somalia at this
He answered it in stating "Part of the reason is because
the United States has its only base in Africa up the coast from
Mogadishu, in Djibouti, the former French Somaliland. The U.S.
Africa Command was established there in 2008, and, absent the
willingness of other African countries to host it, the base in
Djibouti became the headquarters for U.S. troops and fighter bombers
"Flush with money, in spite of the expensive wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense obviously feels itself
in a position to undertake military action in Africa, in Somalia."
Fulfilling its appointed role, the New
York Times leaked U.S. military plans for the current offensive
in Somalia on March 5 in a report titled "U.S. Aiding Somalia
in Its Plan to Retake Its Capital." (Note that the Transitional
Federal Government is presented as Somalia itself and Mogadishu
as its capital.)
The tone of the feature was of course one of approval and endorsement
of the Pentagon's rationale for directly intervening in Somalia
at a level not seen since 1993 and support for proxy actions last
witnessed with the invasion by Ethiopia in 2006. The report began
with a description of a military surveillance plane circling over
the Somali capital and a quote from the new chief of staff of
the nation's armed forces, General Mohamed Gelle Kahiye: "It's
the Americans. They're helping us."
Afterward "An American official in Washington, who said he
was not authorized to speak publicly" - a hallmark of the
American free press - was, if not identified, quoted as maintaining
that U.S. covert operations were planned if not already underway
and "What you're likely to see is airstrikes and Special
Ops moving in, hitting and getting out." 
The New York Times also provided background information regarding
the current offensive:
"Over the past several months, American advisers have helped
supervise the training of the Somali forces to be deployed in
the offensive.The Americans have provided covert training to Somali
intelligence officers, logistical support to the peacekeepers,
fuel for the maneuvers, surveillance information about insurgent
positions and money for bullets and guns." 
Four days later General William ("Kip") Ward, commander
of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), testified before the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
In his introductory remarks the chairman of the committee, Senator
Carl Levin, reinforced recent American attempts to expand the
scope of the deepening Afghanistan-Pakistan war, the deadliest
and lengthiest in the world, to the west and south in stating
that "al Qaeda and violent extremists who share their ideology
are not just located in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region but in
places like Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and Niger." 
In his formal report Ward pursued a similar tact and expanded
the Pentagon's "counter-terrorism" (CT) area of responsibility
yet further from South Asia: "U.S. Africa Command has focused
the majority of its CT capacity building activities in East Africa
on Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Uganda, which - aside from Somalia
- are the countries directly threatened by terrorists." 
He also spoke of the current offensive by "the transition
government to reclaim parts of Mogadishu," stating "I
think it's something that we would look to do and support."
Senator Levin and General Ward included eight African nations
in the broader Afghan war category of Operation Enduring Freedom,
countries from the far northeast of the continent (the Horn of
Africa) to the far west (the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea). The U.S.
military has already been involved in counterinsurgency operations
in Mali and Niger against ethnic Tuareg rebels, who have no conceivable
ties to al-Qaeda, not that one would know that from Levin's comments.
In between South Asia and Africa lies Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula.
The New York Times report cited earlier reminded readers that
"The United States is increasingly concerned about the link
between Somalia and Yemen." Indeed as Levin's comments quoted
above establish, Washington (along with its NATO allies) is forging
an expanded war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and
into Africa. 
That extension of the South Asia war has not gone unobserved in
world capitals, and earlier this year Russian political analyst
Andrei Fedyashin commented: "Adding up all four fronts -
if the United States ventured an attack on Yemen and Somalia -
America would have to invade a territory equal to three-fourths
of Western Europe; and it is hardly strong enough for that."
Strong enough or not, that is just what the White House and the
Pentagon are doing. The only other objection that can be raised
to the above author's description is that it too severely narrows
the intended battlefront.
In the past six months Somali troops have been sent to Djibouti,
Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda for combat training and "most
are now back in the capital, waiting to fight."
In addition, "There are also about 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian
peacekeepers, with 1,700 more on their way, and they are expected
to play a vital role in backing up advancing Somali forces."
Last October the U.S. led ten days of military exercises in Uganda
- Natural Fire 10 - with 450 American troops and over 550 from
Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The U.S. soldiers
were deployed from Camp Lemonier (Lemonnier) in Djibouti, home
to the Pentagon's Joint Task Force/Horn of Africa and over 2,000
U.S. forces. The de facto headquarters of AFRICOM.
At the time of the maneuvers a major Ugandan newspaper wrote that
they were "geared towards the formation of the first Joint
East African Military Force." 
In addition to using such a multinational regional force in Somalia,
the U.S. can also deploy it against Uganda's Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) rebels in Uganda, Congo and Sudan, and could even employ
it against Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Sudan, the only nations on the
African continent not to some degree enmeshed in military partnerships
with Washington and NATO. (Libya has participated in NATO naval
exercises and South Africa has hosted the bloc's warships.) 
Earlier this month the Kenyan newspaper The East African divulged
that "American legislators are pushing for a law that will
see another phase of military action to apprehend Lord's Resistance
The news source added that the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda
Recovery Bill adopted by the U.S. Congress last year "requires
the US government to develop a new multifaceted strategy"
and as such the new bill under consideration "will not be
the first time the US government is providing support to the Uganda
army in fighting the LRA.
"The US has been backing the UPDF [Uganda People's Defence
Force] with logistics and training to fight the rebel group."
Last month it was announced that the U.S.
Africa Command has dispatched special forces to train 1,000 Congolese
troops in the north and east of their nation, where Congo borders
Former U.S. diplomat Daniel Simpson was quoted above as to what
in part is Washington's motive in pursuing a new war in and around
Somalia: To test out AFRICOM ground and air forces in Djibouti
for direct military action on the continent.
A United Press International report of March 10, placed under
energy news, offered another explanation. In a feature titled
"East Africa is next hot oil zone," the news agency
disclosed that "East Africa is emerging as the next oil boom
following a big strike in Uganda's Lake Albert Basin. Other oil
and natural gas reserves have been found in Tanzania and Mozambique
and exploration is under way in Ethiopia and even war-torn Somalia."
The region is, in the words of the Western chief executive officer
of an oil prospecting firm, "the last real high-potential
area in the world that hasn't been fully explored." 
The article added: "The discovery at Lake Albert, in the
center of Africa between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of
Congo, is estimated to contain the equivalent of several billion
barrels of oil. It is likely to be the biggest onshore field found
south of the Sahara Desert in two decades."
It also spoke of "a vast 135,000-square-mile territory in
landlocked Ethiopia that is believed to contain sizable reserves
of oil. It is estimated to hold 4 trillion cubic feet of natural
gas as well."
And, more pertinent to the Horn of Africa:
"A 1993 study by Petroconsultants of Geneva concluded that
Somalia has two of the most potentially interesting hydrocarbon-yielding
basins in the entire region - one in the central Mudugh region,
the other in the Gulf of Aden. More recent analyses indicate that
Somalia could have reserves of up to 10 billion barrels."
Washington's North Atlantic Treaty Organization
allies are also deeply involved in the militarization of East
On March 10 NATO extended its naval operation in the Gulf of Aden
off the coast of Somalia, Ocean Shield, to the end of 2012, an
unprecedentedly long 33-month extension. On March 12 "Standing
NATO Maritime Group 2 will take over missions from Standing NATO
Maritime Group 1 for the four-month assignment. The change will
increase NATO's contribution from four ships to five ships."
At the same hearings of the Senate Armed Services Committee that
AFRICOM commander William Ward addressed, NATO Supreme Allied
Commander in Europe, America's Admiral James Stavridis, "noted
that 100,000 NATO troops are involved in expeditionary operations
on three continents, including operations in Afghanistan, off
the coast of Africa, and in Bosnia." (Evidently Kosovo was
meant for Bosnia.)
Stavridis, who is concurrently top military chief of U.S. European
Command, said "The nature of threats in this 21st century
[is] going to demand more than just sitting behind our borders."
He also said he finds "Iran alarming in any number of dimensions,"
specifically mentioning alleged "state-sponsored terrorism,
nuclear proliferation and political outreach into Latin America."
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently returned
from Jordan and the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain where he pressured
both nations to support the war in Afghanistan and Alliance naval
"NATO's top official said [on March 9] that he has asked
Jordan and Bahrain to contribute to alliance naval operations
fighting terrorism and piracy in the Eastern Mediterranean and
the Gulf of Aden, as he ended a visit to the two countries. NATO
is keen to improve cooperation with Arab and Muslim states, seeing
them as important allies for a number of missions, including the
all-important deployment in Afghanistan." 
Regarding the Western military bloc's
almost nine-year Operation Active Endeavor in the entire Mediterranean
Sea and its Operation Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden, Rasmussen
said, "We would very much like to strengthen cooperation
(with Bahrain and Jordan) within these operations." 
While in Jordan he was strengthening military ties with NATO's
Mediterranean Dialogue partnership - Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan,
Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia - and in Bahrain firming up the
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative aimed at the six members of the
Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have military
personnel serving under NATO in Afghanistan.
In late February a delegation of the 53-nation African Union (AU)
visited NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons,
"NATO continues to support the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
through the provision of strategic sea- and air-lift for AMISOM
Troop Contributing Nations on request. The last airlift support
occurred in June 2008 when NATO transported a battalion of Burundian
peacekeepers to Mogadishu." 
On March 10 AMISON deployed tanks to prevent
the capture of the Somali presidential palace by rebels.
The North Atlantic military bloc, which in recent years has conducted
large-scale exercises in West Africa and inaugurated its international
Response Force in Cape Verde in 2006, also supports "the
operationalisation of the African Standby Force - the African
Union's vision for a continental, on-call security apparatus similar
to the NATO Response Force." 
In May the European Union, whose membership largely overlaps with
that of NATO and which is engaged in intense integration with
the military bloc on a global scale , will begin training
2,000 Somali troops in Uganda.
Brigadier General Thierry Caspar-Fille-Lambie, commanding officer
of French armed forces in Djibouti, said "the Somali troops
will be trained with the necessary military skills to help pacify
and stabilize the volatile country."
He issued that statement "at the closing ceremony of four-week
French operational training of 1,700 Ugandan troops to be deployed"
to Somalia in May. The French ambassador to Uganda said "The
EU troops shall work in close collaboration with UPDF to train
Somali troops." 
The 2,000 soldiers to be trained by the EU will represent a full
third of a projected 6,000-troop Somali army.
The U.S.-NATO-EU global triad plans an even larger collective
military role in the new scramble for Africa. On March 4 and 5
a delegation from AFRICOM met with European Union officials in
Brussels "seeking EU cooperation in Africa," specifically
in "areas where cooperation could be possible, notably with
the soon-to-be-launched EU mission to train Somali troops."
Tony Holmes, AFRICOM's deputy to the commander for civil-military
activities, said "Somalia, that's an area where we're going
to be doing a lot more, the European Union is already doing a
lot and will be doing more.
"Somalia is very important for us. The European Union is
involved in training Somalis in Uganda and that's something we
might be able to work closely with to support."
The AFRICOM delegation, including Major-General
Richard Sherlock, director of strategy, plans and programs, also
discussed "counter-terrorism cooperation with the EU in the
Sahel region, notably in Mauritania, Mali and Niger." 
In late January the chairman of NATO's Military Committee, Admiral
Giampaolo Di Paola, said "that the Alliance is in discussion
with a Gulf state to deploy AWACS planes for a reconnaissance
mission over Afghanistan in support of its ISAF mission and also
for anti-piracy off Somalia." 
To demonstrate that NATO's anti-piracy operation off the coast
of Somalia has other designs than the one acknowledged, early
this year a NATO spokesman announced that the bloc's naval contingent
in the Gulf of Aden "now has an additional task" to
intervene against a fictional deployment of Somali fighters across
the Gulf to Yemen.
The spokesman, Jacqui Sheriff, said "NATO warships will be
on the lookout for anything suspicious." 
As though Somali al-Shabaab fighters have nothing else to do as
the U.S. is engineering an all-out assault on them in their homeland.
Five days after the New York Times feature detailed American war
plans in Somalia, the Washington Times followed up on and added
to that report.
U.S. operations are "likely to be the most overt demonstration
of U.S. military backing since the ill-fated Operation Restore
Hope of 1992."
"Unmanned U.S. surveillance aircraft have been seen circling
over Mogadishu in recent days, apparently pinpointing insurgent
positions as the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] marshals
its forces. U.S. Army advisers have been helping train the TFG's
forces, which have been largely equipped with millions of dollars'
worth of U.S. arms airlifted into Mogadishu over the last few
The newspaper report further stated: "It's
not clear when the offensive will start. The word on the street
is sometime in the next few weeks."
The campaign has already begun.
"After securing Mogadishu, the offensive, supported by militias
allied with the government, for now, at least, is likely to continue
against al-Shebab in the countryside west and south toward the
border with Kenya." 
After the capital, the entire country.
After Somalia, the region.
The war has just begun.
1) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 10, 2010_2) New York Times,
March 5, 2010_3) Ibid_4) Senate Armed Forces Committee, March
9, 2010_5) United States Africa Command, March 9, 2010_6) Senate
Armed Forces Committee, March 9, 2010_7) U.S., NATO Expand Afghan
War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean_Stop NATO, January 8, 2010
Yemen: Pentagon's War On The Arabian Peninsula_Stop
NATO, December 15, 2009
8) Russian Information Agency Novosti,
January 11, 2010_9) New York Times, March 5, 2010_10) The Monitor,
October 14, 2009_11) AFRICOM Year Two: Seizing The Helm Of The
Entire World_Stop NATO, October 22, 2009
12) The East African, March 1, 2010_13) United Press International,
March 10, 2010_14) Ibid_15) Stars and Stripes, March 11, 2010_16)
United States Department of Defense, March 9, 2010_17) Ibid_18)
Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 9, 2010_19) Ibid_20) North Atlantic
Treaty Organization_Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe_February
24, 2010_21) Ibid_22) EU, NATO, US: 21st Century Alliance For
Global Domination_Stop NATO, February 19, 2009
23) Xinhua News Agency, February 13, 2010_24)
Europolitics, March 5, 2010_25) Ibid_26) Kuwait News Agency, January
28, 2010_27) Canwest News Service, January 1, 2010_28) Washington
Times, March 10, 2010