Somali "Anti-Terrorism Alliance" gets US funds; so do "Blackhawk Down" warlords

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

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According to The Scotsman, former US intelligence officials said a secret operation to support the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in war-torn Somalia appeared to involve both the CIA and US military. The officials spoke under condition of anonymity.

The warlord factions that drove the US and UN troops out of Mogadishu in October 1993 led to the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in 1994. This switch in allegiances from President Clinton's administration have so far not stopped the sharia courts, who have gained control of the capital, Mogadishu.

A key objective of US policy in the Horn of Africa region is the US fear of Somalia becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda. Somalia experts in US say, according to The East African newspaper, that the militias linked to the sharia courts have support among Mogadishu residents. Mohamed Asser, resident, said. "The era of warlords in Somalia is over. This morning Mogadishu is under only one hand, the Islamic courts."

John Prendergast, who served on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration and now tracks Somalia for the think-tank International Crisis Group said that three alliance leaders recently told him that they were receiving funds from the CIA. "Our assessment is between $100,000 and $150,000 per month," Prendergast said.

Giving money to warlord factions would violate the United Nations' arms embargo against Somalia. The United Nations, which is administering the embargo, is investigating how the warlord alliance came to receive a shipment of weapons. Prendergast believes this policy has resulted in an backlash: "By circumventing the new government and going straight to individual warlords, the US is perpetuating and even deepening Somalia's fundamental problems, and compromising long-term efforts to combat extremism."

The armed militias behind the Islamic courts also are said to receive funds from unnamed sources.

Michael Zorick, former Somalia political officer in the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya argues that US support of the Somali Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism had increased support for Islamists. According to Zorick, the United States should give more support to the Somali government and push for peace. The analyst's advice went against the Bush administration, which recently had the regional expert reassigned to Chad.

William Bellamy, US ambassador to Kenya, a country that shares a northern border with Somalia, was willing only to confirm American diplomatic support for the warlords in Somalia. "Lost in the diplomacy and politics is the fact that the US is reaching out in many ways to help improve the lives of ordinary Somalis," Mr Bellamy said. This includes $84 million food aid and many years of peace initiatives. The CIA declined to comment and US government officials refused to discuss any secret US involvement in Somalia, strategically placed in the Horn of Africa.

The Somali government, the Transitional Central Government in city of Baidoa, a bystander to the recent events, is the 14th of such authorities in Somalia since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The government is currently seeking talks with the Islamists groups with a view to establishing peace for the country.

According to The Mercury News the Bush administration has deployed about 1,500 US troops in the tiny nation of Djibouti, on Somalia's northern border. That seems to be a part of a US regional strategy if the warlords lose on battlefield.