On May 5 the role of Pentagon forces inside the Horn of Africa nations of Somalia was further exposed when Navy Seal chief petty officer Kyle Miliken reportedly died in a gun battle with al-Shabaab fighters.
This encounter was said to have taken place during a mission 40 miles west of the capital of Mogadishu.
The White House war against Somalia reemerged over a decade ago when the-then administration of President George W. Bush, Jr. encouraged the intervention of the military forces of neighboring Ethiopia aimed at eliminating the bases of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). These developments were accompanied by an aerial campaign carried out by Washington and London designed to enhance U.S. influence over the political situation inside the country.
With respect to the death of Navy Seal Miliken, the initial reports claimed that he was acting alongside Team 6 while serving in an advisory capacity to the Somalia National Army in line with the policy shift mandated by the current administration of President Donald Trump. Contrasting this story only several days later, the official Pentagon military spokesperson revealed that the U.S. soldiers were engaging al-Shabaab fighters embedded with the local troops in a purported counter-terrorism operation.
An article in the New York Times reporting on the proceedings of a security conference in the Southern African state of Malawi, noted that:
“Brig. Gen. David J. Furness, the commander of the military’s task force for the Horn of Africa, offered a different account on Tuesday (May 9), saying that American and Somali forces were traveling together in a single group when they came under fire. No Somali forces were hit. General Furness, in an interview at the African Land Forces summit meeting in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, said he did not believe that Americans had been specifically targeted because it was dark and it was unlikely that the assailants were wearing night vision goggles. ‘We were there on an advise, assist and accompany mission,’ General Furness said.'”
Other statements suggested that the joints efforts by the Somalian army and the Team 6 Navy Seals were a failure. Prior to arriving at the location of the search and destroy mission against al-Shabaab, the U.S. and local forces were ambushed by Islamic guerrilla units.
Captain Jeff Davis of the Department of Defense also said of the incident that two ranking military officials of al-Shabaab were killed by the U.S. and its Somalian allies. Nonetheless, two other Navy Seal troops were wounded in the exchange.
Although a recent commentary published by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the role of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) consisting of 22,000 regional troops which are trained and subsidized by the U.S. and the European Union (EU), in establishing stability in Mogadishu and other areas, an escalation of fighting in the southern region resulted in the deaths of 17 people. Johnson said in his opinion piece in the Globe and Mail that despite the years in which al-Shabaab had controlled large swaths of territory to the point where British diplomatic officials would dare not venture into the oil-rich Horn of Africa nation and largely operated from neighboring Kenya,
“Today, all that has changed. Brave African soldiers mobilized by the African Union Mission in Somalia – known as AMISOM – turned the tide against al-Shabaab, driving the terrorists out of Mogadishu and liberating thousands of square miles.” (May 10)
However, a fierce battle in a southern town prompted the retreat of Somalian National Army troops in early May. Garowe Online (GO) reported on May 9 saying:
“al-Shabaab militants seized Goofgaduud district from the joint Somali government and Southwest state forces on Tuesday following a deadly attack that left at least 17 soldiers dead…. The fall of Goofgaduud which lies about 30 km north of Baidoa town, the regional capital of Bay region, is the latest town taken by the militant group attempting to topple the Western-backed Somali government. Col. Abdullahi Sheikh Mohamed, a senior Somali military commander confirmed to GO that the allied forces pulled out of the town in a tactical move, and will recapture it back from the militant group.”
The Voice of America (VOA) even admitted that the impacted area in Goofgaduud housed a Somalian military base. The base was attacked by al-Shabaab forcing the U.S.-backed units to abandon their positions.
Quoting an eyewitness who wanted to remain anonymous, the VOA noted:
“About 100 heavily armed militants attacked the base with rockets and heavy machine-guns. The fighting lasted about an hour. The government forces in the camp were forced to retreat, but came back to their base immediately.” (May 9)
An unnamed Somalian military spokesperson also said of the fighting:
“The militants ambushed a convoy of government soldiers heading to Goofgaduud as reinforcements. First, they attacked with a land mine and then gunfire. They killed six soldiers and wounded two, and seized one of our military vehicles.”
Radio Andalus, which is controlled by al-Shabaab, said that their forces had taken over the town resulting in the deaths of 17 government troops.
Famine Threatened Amid Growing U.S. Military Presence and Oil Explorations
President Donald Trump in late March announced that his administration was loosening supposed restrictions on Pentagon military operations inside of Somalia. Nevertheless, nothing has been said in regard to providing assistance to the civilian population which is suffering from monumental food and water deficits.
The overall population of the country has been estimated to be between 12 and 14 million people. Petroleum resources in the breakaway region of Puntland in the north are being exploited by a Canadian firm Africa Oil Corporation. Offshore resources are thought to be quite substantial as well near the central and southern regions of the country. Concession agreements were signed during the late 1980s with Shell and Exxon Mobil.
Notwithstanding these business dealings, the monetary compensation for these contracts has not reached the masses which are living in an increasing perilous situation. Humanitarian agencies are appealing for immediate assistance in order to avert massive starvation due to lack of food and water.
Relief Web stressed in a recent report that:
“Massive drought-related displacement continues across Somalia, with most of the displaced people moving from rural to urban areas or other rural areas. According to the UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN) more than 680,000 people have been displaced by drought since November 2016. In the last week, a total of 63 people crossed into Dollo Addo town of Ethiopia. Nearly 420 people were displaced from Xarardheere district to Cadaado town as a result of forced child recruitment and heavy taxation by non-state armed actors.” (May 9)
A security conference on Somalia beginning on May 11in London is designed to win pledges for monetary support to continue the AMISOM presence beyond 2018. Despite this initiative, a military solution which has guided western policy for the last decade has not won the peace or genuine socio-economic development.
Until the AU Peace and Security Council along with regional bodies can bring the warring parties together for a permanent solution the crises will not abate. State actors must find a solution to their own political problems in order to eliminate the rationale for ongoing Pentagon and EU presence in East Africa.