Thursday, June 08, 2006

CIA blamed for Somolia fiasco against Islamists.

Africa: A whole lot of mumbo jumbo about the CIA funding the warlords and that in turn helped the Islamic militants to take over by the Times.

WASHINGTON, June 7 — A covert effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to finance Somali warlords has drawn sharp criticism from American government officials who say the campaign has thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize. The criticism was expressed privately by United States government officials with direct knowledge of the debate. And the comments flared even before the apparent victory this week by Islamist militias in the country dealt a sharp setback to American policy in the region and broke the warlords' hold on the capital, Mogadishu. The officials said the C.I.A. effort, run from the agency's station in Nairobi, Kenya, had channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year to secular warlords inside Somalia with the aim, among other things, of capturing or killing a handful of suspected members of Al Qaeda believed to be hiding there. Officials say the decision to use warlords as proxies was born in part from fears of committing large numbers of American personnel to counterterrorism efforts in Somalia, a country that the United States hastily left in 1994 after attempts to capture the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid and his aides ended in disaster and the death of 18 American troops. .... The American payments to the warlords have been intended at least in part to help gain the capture of a number of suspected Qaeda operatives who are believed responsible for a number of deadly attacks throughout East Africa. Since the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, American officials have been tracking a Qaeda cell whose members are believed to move freely between Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and parts of the Middle East. Shortly after an attack on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, and the failed attempt to shoot down a plane bound for Israel that took off from the Mombasa airport, both in November 2002, the United States began informally reaching out to the Somali clans in the hopes that local forces might provide intelligence about suspected members of Al Qaeda in Somalia. This approach has brought occasional successes. According to an International Crisis Group report, militiamen loyal to warlord Mohammed Deere, a powerful figure in Mogadishu, caught a suspected Qaeda operative, Suleiman Abdalla Salim Hemed, in April 2003 and turned him over to American officials. According to Mr. Prendergast, who has met frequently with Somali clan leaders, the C.I.A. over the past year has increased its payments to the militias in the hopes of putting pressure on Al Qaeda. The operation, while blessed by officials in Washington, did not seem to be closely coordinated among various American national security agencies, he said. "I've talked to people inside the Defense Department and State Department who said that this was not a comprehensive policy," he said. "It was being conducted in a vacuum, and they were largely shut out."
Reuters on the other hand says the warlords were defeated because the Islamists had better weapons, training and most importantly a religious conviction that the forces the warlords had could not beat.
NAIROBI, June 7 (Reuters) - Islamic militias captured Mogadishu -- an anarchic city no single group could control for 15 years -- because of superior training, popular support and religious motivation, experts said on Wednesday. The Islamic fighters, who fought an alliance of warlords widely believed to have been funded as part of the United States' counter-terrorism war, were also getting external assistance, according to a U.N. report. The militia transformed the face of warfare on Mogadishu's battle-scarred streets, shifting away from the traditional haphazard, frenzied attacks made famous by the book and movie "Black Hawk Down". "Increased military-style tactical training, massive popular support and the strength of commitment of ideological motivation -- as opposed to mercenary motivation -- means the Islamists were motivated to continue in the face of adversity," said a former military official who follows Somalia closely but declined to speak on the record. In a typical fight in the anarchic capital, poorly-trained and paid gunmen clattered into battle en masse on the back of "technicals" -- pick-up trucks with heavy guns -- and blasted wildly with mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). But on several occasions over the three-month battle for the Somali capital, the Islamic side carried out night commando raids, attacked before dawn or fought through the night -- all rare tactics in Somalia, residents and experts said. "If you've got military leaders, you can do that. The warlords are living in medieval times," said a Western diplomat who follows Somalia but whose job does not permit him to be quoted by name. IMPROVED TACTICS The improved tactics may be explained by the presence of former military men in the top ranks of the Islamic side, chief among them Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an ex-army colonel decorated for bravery during war with Ethiopia in 1977. A May U.N. report on violations of a 1992 Security Council arms embargo on Somalia said Aweys had set up military training programmes for his militia since early 2005. The report also said Eritrea and Ethiopia shipped weapons to Somalia. Eritrea denied this but Ethiopia did not respond. The warlords, who had divided the capital into rival fiefdoms with their private armies since ousting Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, are largely despised by ordinary citizens. In contrast, the Islamic courts were popular for restoring a semblance of order to parts of the violent and anarchic city. The Islamic side was also credited with taking more care to avoid killing civilians, many of whom were hit by stray warlord mortars, residents said. "I think they were a bit more restrained in that respect and the result of that was an overwhelming popular support," the military expert said.

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