The Observer & The Washington Post & Think Progress.org – 2006-09-12 01:07:47
US Accused of Covert Operations in Somalia
Antony Barnett and Patrick Smith / Observer
(September 10, 2006) — Dramatic evidence that America is involved in illegal mercenary operations in east Africa has emerged in a string of confidential emails seen by The Observer. The leaked communications between US private military companies suggest the CIA had knowledge of the plans to run covert military operations inside Somalia — against UN rulings — and they hint at involvement of British security firms.
The emails, dated June this year, reveal how US firms have been planning undercover missions in support of President Abdullahi Yusuf’s transitional federal government — founded with UN backing in 2004 — against the Supreme Islamic Courts Council — a radical Muslim militia which took control of Mogadishu, the country’s capital, also in June promising national unity under Sharia law.
Evidence of foreign involvement in the conflict would not only breach the UN arms embargo but could destabilise the entire region.
One email dated Friday, 16 June, is from Michele Ballarin, chief executive of Select Armor — a US military firm based in Virginia. Ballarin’s email was sent to a number of individuals including Chris Farina of the Florida-based military company ATS Worldwide.
Ballarin said: ‘Boys: Successful meeting with President Abdullay Yussef [sic] and his chief staff personnel in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday … where he invited us to his private hotel suite flacked by security detail … He has appointed is chief of presidential protocol as our go to during this phase.’
She refers to one ‘closed-door meeting’ with a senior UN figure and mentions there are ‘a number of Brit security firms’ also looking to get involved.
Ballarin claimed she has been given ‘carte blanche’ to use three bases in Somalia ‘and the air access to reach them’.
She then suggests that the CIA have been kept informed of the plans. Ballarin states: ‘My contact whom we discussed from the agency side requested an in-person meeting with me. I arrived in New York at 2340 last night and was driven to Virginia — arriving at 0200 today.’
According to the highly respected newsletter, Africa Confidential, which originally published extracts of the emails last week, Select Armor started its operation planning in Kampala, Uganda. The emails suggest that the Ugandan government were willing to help secure arms supplies for any operation although this is denied by security officials in Kampala.
In one reply to Ballarin, Farina said: ‘A forced entry operation [into Mogadishu] at this point without the addition of follow-on forces who can capitalise on the momentum/initiative of the initial op will result in a replay of Dien Bien Phu’. This is a reference to the defeat of French colonial forces in Indochina in 1953.
The website of Farina’s company ATS boasts it ‘can execute operations in support of host national indigenous forces’. ATS claims it uses former US and British special operations personnel.
One email discussing funding of any operation sent from Farina to Ballarin states: ‘We may have to re-focus our efforts in the US among the DOS [State Department] and DOD [Defence Department] to bring any forward movement to this effort.’
The Observer left several messages with both Select and ATS requesting interviews but nobody responded. Ballarin told Africa Confidential last week that the company’s operations in Somalia were ‘classified’.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
US Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia
(May 17, 2006) — More than a decade after US troops withdrew from Somalia following a disastrous military intervention, officials of Somalia’s interim government and some US analysts of Africa policy say the United States has returned to the African country, secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.
The latest clashes, last week and over the weekend, were some of the most violent in Mogadishu since the end of the American intervention in 1994, and left 150 dead and hundreds more wounded. Leaders of the interim government blamed US support of the militias for provoking the clashes.
US officials have declined to directly address on the record the question of backing Somali warlords, who have styled themselves as a counterterrorism coalition in an open bid for American support. Speaking to reporters recently, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would “work with responsible individuals . . . in fighting terror. It’s a real concern of ours — terror taking root in the Horn of Africa. We don’t want to see another safe haven for terrorists created. Our interest is purely in seeing Somalia achieve a better day.”
Many people here say they feel that the United States has ignored Somalia since the failed 1993 military intervention. Today many Somalis said they regret that chapter in their history and thank the United States, the largest donor of food and funding for water trucks during this season’s drought.
However, they said that news that the US government was talking with warlords has awakened feelings of resentment.
“George W. Bush, we welcome the Americans. But not to back warlords. We need the USA. to help the young government,” said Isak Nur Isak, the district commissioner in Waajid. “We won’t drag any Americans through the street like in 1993. We want to be clear: We don’t want only food aid, but we do want political support for the new government, which is all we have right now to put our hopes in. We can’t eat if everyone is dead.”
Lots More at link
Bush Supporting Warlords
Responsible for Downing Blackhawk
(May 17, 2006) — Today, the Washington Post reported that the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”
The Bush administration is “backing the warlords as part of its global war against terrorism,” even though some of these warlords “reportedly fought against the United States in 1993 during street battles that culminated in an attack that downed two US Black Hawk helicopters and left 18 Army Rangers dead.”
At today’s press briefing, Tony Snow all but confirmed the report:
[Y]ou’ve got instability in Somalia right now, and there is concern about the presence of foreign terrorists, particularly Al Qaeda, within Somalia right now. In an environment of instability, as we’ve seen in the past, Al Qaeda may take root, and we want to make sure that Al Qaeda does not in fact establish a beachhead in Somalia. […] The United States – we will continue to work with regional and international partners wherever we can to crack down on terrorism and also to try to prevent its rising.
Somalia’s interim government has warned the US that this policy is “shortsighted and dangerous,” and is causing more violence in an already anarchic country:
“We would prefer that the US work with the transitional government and not with criminals,” the prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, said in an interview. “This is a dangerous game. Somalia is not a stable place and we want the US in Somalia. But in a more constructive way. Clearly we have a common objective to stabilize Somalia, but the US is using the wrong channels.”
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