July 2, 2006


Mistaken Entry Into Clan Dispute Led to U.S. Black Eye in Somalia (Craig Timberg, July 2, 2006, Washington Post)

In the weeks that followed this little-known incident, which U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny, the United States expanded its role in Somalia to levels not seen since it abandoned the country in 1994. The Americans helped organize a group of secular warlords into an "anti-terror coalition" and provided them with a large, steady diet of cash.

The warlords, feared and hated by many Somalis, bragged about the money as they armed themselves as never before.

The infusion of cash upset a fragile balance between the two sides -- but not in the direction the Americans had hoped.

By March, the warlords were under siege. By June 6, they had fled. And by June 24, Hassan Dahir Aweys, a militant Islamic leader hostile to Western democracy and reputed to have ties to al-Qaeda, had taken control of Mogadishu. Late last week, Osama bin Laden boasted of successes there in an audiotape that singled out Somalia as a front in his war against Americans.

"Simply, they made a mistake," Ali Iman Sharmarke, a prominent Mogadishu businessman and radio journalist, said of the Americans in an interview in Nairobi. "If their intent was to capture terrorists, they needed a wider approach . . . to help the people of Somalia."

American analysts, though not knowledgeable about the incident at the airstrip, said that by giving cash to the warlords the United States triggered events that quickly moved beyond its control, producing a setback likely to hurt not only Somalis but also the U.S. war on terrorism.

A rare instance of the President backing the wrong side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 2, 2006 10:13 AM

He probably relied on intel from the Plame contingent of spooks.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 10:45 AM

Another CIA screwup. They have handed the Somali mullahs a convenient blame-the-USA card that they can use anytime to whip up the populace, like Castro has been doing since the Bay of Pigs.

Posted by: Gideon at July 2, 2006 1:21 PM

Gideon is right, but we backed the wrong side only in the sense that both sides were wrong. Despite OJ's optimism, I'd bet that within a year or less, the Talibanization of Somalia will be well under way. OJ may not have a problem with religious enforcers beating up women for showing their faces or men for watching the wrong thing on TV, but I still do.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 2, 2006 3:22 PM

The Somalis sensibly prefer it to what we left them with, as would you if you lived there. Libertarians only exist in societies that have already been Talibanized.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 4:25 PM

So American society is Talibanized? I know you like to stretch words out of all sense, but that's really silly. We've never come close, not during the Salem witch trials or anytime since.

Posted by: PapayaSF at July 2, 2006 6:05 PM

Yes, we're the most puritanical nation in the world. Our incarceration rate makes the Taliban look multiculti.

Posted by: oj at July 2, 2006 7:49 PM

The really sad part in this whole saga is that there was actually a third grouping we could have backed, a democratic group. The Republic of Somaliland in the north(broke off from Somalia proper but have yet to gain international recognition much like Taiwan), it has held democratic local, parliamentary and presidential elections. These elections were attended by the Us Republican Institute for Democracy and they verifed the elctions as free and fair.

We have pumped in 4 billion dollars into Somalia and yet there is only chaos there, Somaliland on the other hand eventhough it is democratic and peaceful have recieved cero support from us, madness in action and our tax money being wasted like if it was toilet paper.

One reason for the lack of US support for Somaliland is Saudi arabias and Egypts staunch opposition to a democratic muslim and African state merging so close to their borders, lest their populations start taking notice and require the same freedoms to elect their leaders for their countries

Here is the website for a map of Somaliland:


Posted by: Sam Smith at July 2, 2006 9:54 PM