US and UK covert operations in Somalia
The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is the lead agency in the covert ‘war on terror’ in Somalia, although the CIA also has a strong regional presence.
The US has been carrying out extensive covert military operations inside Somalia since 2001, as a major six-part investigation by the US Army Times recently revealed.
Elite troops from the Pentagon’s JSOC are routinely deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations. In June 2011, the US began carrying out drone strikes in Somalia. JSOC has its own fleet of armed Reaper drones, which are flown from various bases in the region.
The CIA also operates a secret base at Mogadishu airport, according to a detailed investigation by Jeremy Scahill at The Nation. Unarmed US surveillance drones also regularly fly from the airport, according to a well-informed Bureau source. While some of these are part of the US ‘war on terror’, many provide support for peacekeeping operations in the region.
The US’s primary target is currently al Shabaab, the militant group which controls much of the country’s south. On February 9 2012, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri announced that al Shabaab had formally become a franchise of al Qaeda.
In recent years, both Kenya and Ethiopia have invaded parts of Somalia, the latter allegedly with the military aid of the US. JSOC forces are reported to have taken advantage of these events to carry out more intensive operations against militants, often using helicopters, airstrikes, AC-130 gunships and “boots on the ground”.
Key reports of operations in Somalia
The Bureau has collated credible reports of known covert operations and other events in Somalia relating to the ‘war on terror’. These are drawn from major international news media and agencies, political and military memoirs and papers, and academic research. All sources are transparently presented.
Given the nature of covert operations and the difficulties in reporting from Somalia, the Bureau understands that this is an incomplete record. We welcome corrections and additions.
|Covert US operations, Somalia 2001-2016|
|US drone strikes||Additional US attacks|
|Total reported strikes:||32-36||9-13|
|Total reported killed:||242-418||59-166|
|Civilians reported killed:||3-12||7-47|
|Children reported killed:||0-2||0-2|
|Total reported injured:||5-24||11-21|
2001 – 2005
In 2001, the Bush administration reportedly considered military strikes against Somalia, accusing it of having ties to al Qaeda. Action was abandoned because of insufficient intelligence. ‘Somalia has been a place that has harboured al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is’, then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2001. Military flights in P-3 aircraft conducted surveillance while an increased numbers of US ships and submarines patrolled the Somali coastline. Reportedly about 100 US Special Forces operated in the country, similar to early incursions into Afghanistan. On December 2, 2001, the UK Daily Telegraph reported that the US had asked the UK for assistance in planning strikes on ‘terror bases’ in Somalia.follow part two