Why did the United States invade Somalia? 

Your war questions answered

With the American public so consumed by the country's other two big wars (the war in Iraq and Donald vs. Rosie), comparatively little attention has been paid to the United State's recent invasion of Somalia.

On Jan. 7, an American AC-130 gunship made an air-mail delivery of whoop-ass in southern Somalia. The initial attack was followed by "mopping-up" operations by American helicopter gunships, and American special forces soldiers have gone in to see who our bombs are actually hitting.

The reported targets of the U.S. attacks: three men suspected by the U.S. government of being terrorists.

Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan is a 27-year-old Kenyan national wanted by the FBI for a 2002 same-day attack on a hotel and Israeli airliner in Mombasa, Kenya. The hotel bombing left 10 dead. The surface-to-air missiles launched at the Israeli airliner both missed.

The reported second target was Abu Talha al-Sudani, who is suspected by the United States of leading an al-Qaeda cell in East Africa. He is reportedly an explosives expert.

Last, but certainly not least, on America's hit list in Somalia is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Though never in custody, he has already been indicted in New York for his alleged involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. His FBI wanted poster helpfully points out that he "likes to wear baseball caps and tends to dress casually. He is very good with computers." The United States is offering a $5 million reward for the 120- to 140-pound suspect, making him one of the best values (by weight) on the "Most Wanted" list.

Recent news reports in the American news media have said that the current operations include the first use of U.S. ground troops in Somalia since the pullout that followed the so-called Black Hawk Down incident in 1993 that left 18 U.S. soldiers dead. That's probably true.

Writing for the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Xan Rice and Suzanne Goldberg allege that the Ethiopian invasion force that went into Somalia last month was accompanied and even preceded by U.S. Special Ops troops.

As far as I know, no U.S. official has acknowledged whether the allegation is true, but there's very little reason to doubt that it is. On Dec. 4, the commander of U.S. forces in the region, General John Abizaid, met with Ethiopia's dictator in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Three weeks after their meeting, Ethiopia invaded Somalia. What do you suppose they were chatting about?

The United States funds the Ethiopian military and openly approved of the invasion once it happened. And Ethiopia's stated aim, to keep the Islamic fundamentalist movement known as the Union of Islamic Courts from taking over Somalia, has been the U.S. objective in Somalia since at least 2005. Prior to Ethiopia's invasion, the CIA spent months trying to weaken the UIC by funneling cash and weapons to opposing Somali warlords. Somalia has been a haven for Islamic terrorists for years. The United States is worried that a UIC-controlled Somalia would be even more terrorist-friendly.

So, how's the war going so far? Naturally, it's going terribly for the people of Somalia, who for the past decade or so have found themselves on the receiving end of countless weapons, foreign and domestic.

For the United States and its ally, Ethiopia, it's been a mixed bag. Ethiopian forces have successfully driven the UIC out of most of Somalia's cities and into remote, hard-to-get-to southern Somalia.

For the United States, the results have been less gratifying. Initial reports indicated that the Jan. 7 air strike hit its intended target. When it became apparent that none of the intended targets were hit, the military went into spin mode.

Check out this Associated Press story from Jan. 11:

"A top American official in the Horn of Africa said Thursday that none of the suspected members of Al Qaeda believed to be hiding in Somalia died in the American air strike this week, but added that Somalis with close ties to the terrorist group were killed."

No actual al-Qaeda were hit, just people with "close ties" to them. We didn't hit any al-Qaeda, but we did get al-Kinda.

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