Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Somalia: And another thing...

Another thing about Somalia - this was where Christian General Jerry Boykin said he could see Satan in the clouds over Mogadishu.  And where he said he knew he was going to beat the local warlord because Boykin's God was bigger than the warlord's God.

And, sure enough, Boykin was involved in the latest series of attacks on alleged Al Qaida figures in Somalia, as this article on his impending departure from the Pentagon says, <a href="">Gates Gates Cleans House Newsweek Online 01/09/07:

Airstrikes this week on alleged Al Qaeda figures in Somalia may prove to be one of the last counterterrorism operations associated with a controversial Pentagon general who has overseen the deployment of secret U.S. Special Ops teams against suspected terror plotters, defense experts close to the Pentagon and intelligence community tell NEWSWEEK.

Lt. Gen. William Boykin and his boss, soon-to-depart Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone, have guided or taken part in the planning of such covert operations against Al Qaeda-linked groups in several countries since 9/11. There is no indication that new Defense Secretary Robert Gates disagrees with the Somalia operation this week. But Boykin has long been a divisive figure. A devout evangelical Christian, he achieved notoriety in October 2003 when he was videotaped telling a church audience that the god of a Muslim warlord was "an idol" and that "my God was a real God." Boykin and Cambone have also generated controversy by allegedly seeking to wrest control of intelligence-gathering from the CIA. Gates has said he is especially determined to improve cooperation between the Department of Defense and the CIA. In written testimony during his confirmation process last fall, Gates said he was "unhappy about the dominance of the Defense Department in the intelligence arena" - a key element of Cambone's and Boykin's approach.

This is also interesting:

And his strategy of quietly destroying jihadist cells outside Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 has had its successes. Among them: the capture of Algerian terrorist Abderrazak al-Para in 2004, the assassination of a jihadist leader in Yemen by aHellfire missile strike in 2004 and the routing of the Abu Sayyaf terror group from Basilan Island in the Philippines.

Were any of these actually posing direct threats to Americans?  They may all have been, I'm just wondering.

The following also makes me wonder just what is going on with the current Somalia operation.  Did Boykin need to show that his god was bigger than the Somalis' one more time?

But the killing of innocents in some of these attacks has been costly to America's reputation as well. The attacks in Somalia by U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunships temporarily based in neighboring Kenya began Sunday. They were launched by the Joint Task Force based in Djibouti, with help from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as Ethiopian forces. The targets: a handful of Al Qaeda operatives suspected in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as other alleged Al Qaeda associates in Somalia, U.S. officials said. The jihadis were believed to be on the run since U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces overran Mogadishu a week ago. According to an official U.S. State Department cable described to NEWSWEEK, the Al Qaeda suspects were "co-located" with forces of the fleeing Islamic Courts Union in remote southern Somalia.

Pentagon spokesman Joe Carpenter said the targets were "principal Al Qaeda leadership in the region. We're not discussing their identities or the individuals that were targeted." However, intelligence officials said U.S. forces were hoping that at least one of the three of the figures involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy attacks was among the dozens reported killed by the strikes. Two senior intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details of the operation were classified, said it was not confirmed whether any of the Al Qaeda figures was dead.

In other words, we don't have the slightest idea whether any "Al Qaeda figures" were involved.  So far, we just have vague claims that we're killin' foreigners, presumably some of them "terrorists".

And it's obvious that there are some prominent critics of the notion of targeted assassinations by air strike around:

Critics of the covert program say that Gates and Cambone's replacement, Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, are concerned that too much collateral damage may work against U.S. interests. Giraldi says the U.S. Special Ops teams operate too often without accountability, not even notifying the local U.S. Embassy of their presence. In one case in East Africa a clandestine team was arrested by the host government and had to be bailed out by the ambassador, Giraldi says. Adds [John] Arquilla [of the Naval Postgraduate School], an advocate of dropping small teams into countries rather than launching airstrikes: "There's a growing realization in the Pentagon that the more collateral damage is done, the worse is our position in the 'battle of the story' - in other words, every time we kill innocents our story is much less compelling and the clash of civilizations story is much more compelling."

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