Mogadishu, Somalia, September 17, 2011 – The clandestine U.S. campaign
to counter Islamist forces in Somalia appears to be growing daily, with
allegations the CIA is running covert operations from a base at
These operations allegedly include the rendition of suspected jihadists
seized in East Africa and spirited to an underground CIA interrogation
center in Mogadishu and using mercenaries to train Somali assassination
teams to hit al-Shabaab, the main insurgent group and which is linked to
Jeremy Scahill, who specializes in security affairs, recently spent time
in Somalia and reported in The Nation that the CIA operates from a
heavily guarded compound at the capital's beachside airport secured by
guard towers and has its own fleet of aircraft.
The agency, he adds, has a "secret prison" under the headquarters of
Somalia's National Security Agency, an arm of the dysfunctional
Western-backed Transitional Federal Government which is kept in power
largely by a 9,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force known as
Suspected al-Shabaab operatives are held there along with prisoners
seized in Kenya, Uganda and other East African countries, where al-Qaida
is known to operate, and secretly flown to Mogadishu.
This is all part of an expanding U.S. counter-terrorism campaign that
also embraces Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, even the Philippines and
It is spearheaded by the CIA, which has become increasingly militarized
in recent years, and the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations
The Americans, aided by their allies, have killed or captured dozens of
senior al-Qaida chieftains over the last couple of years as this new
strategy has shifted into high gear under U.S. President Barack Obama's
The administration shies away from putting large conventional forces on
the ground as it quits Iraq and starts drawing down forces in
Afghanistan as popular support for distant wars wanes in the United
States a decade and trillions of dollars after 9/11.
Instead it has stepped up the use of armed drones to kill jihadist
On the ground, Scahill says the Americans are increasingly replaying the
tactics and often unsavory alliances they made with warlords and tribal
chiefs in Iraq.
"Over the past year, the Somali government and AMISOM have turned to
some unsavory characters in a dual effort to build something resembling
a national army and, as the United States attempted to do with its
Awakening Councils in the Sunni areas of Iraq in 2006, to purchase
strategic loyalty from former allies of the current enemy -- in this
case, al-Shabaab," Scahill reported.
"Some warlords … have been given government ministries or military rank
in return for allocating their forces to the fight against al-Shabaab.
"Several are former allies of al Qaida or al-Shabaab, and many fought
against the U.S.-sponsored Ethiopian invasion in 2006 or against the
U.S.-led mission in Somalia in the early 1990s that culminated in the
infamous 'Black Hawk Down' incident."
Among these warlords is Yusuf Mohamed Siad, a notorious paramilitary
chieftain known by his nom de guerre of Indha Adde, or White Eyes. He's
also known as "the Butcher."
Siad, who was allied with Islamist militants before the CIA bought him
off, is now a three-star general funded by the agency and armed by the
At times, Scahill reports, there are up to 30 CIA agents operating in
Mogadishu. They appear to function outside the ambit of the TFG and its
president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.
The Americans reportedly have little faith in his corrupt administration
in lawless Somalia, which has been without a functioning government
The Americans appear to be focusing on building up an indigenous
counter-terrorism force that they control, independently of the TFG in
this 5-year-old proxy war.
That's where the mercenaries come in. They include Richard Rouget, aka
Col. Sanders, a former French army officer who has fought in several
African wars. He works for Bancroft Global Development, a private
security company that has a 40-man team of "mentors" in Mogadishu.
Rouget and a group of former French, Scandinavian and South African
military personnel help train AMISOM's Kenyan and Ugandan troops.
This has paid off, sort of. TFG forces, led by AMISOM, recently
succeeded in pushing al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu in an offensive
launched in May.
But that may have had more to do with crippling clan rivalries within
the group than anything else.