[Dehai-WN] Strategypage.com: The War Of The Watchers

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2011 23:34:29 +0100

The War Of The Watchers

December 17, 2011: France and the United States have special operations
forces (commandos and special aircraft) stationed in Djibouti, which is next
to northern Somalia. France has had commandos there for over a decade and
the U.S. moved in after September 11, 2001. But you don't hear much about
this corner of the War on Terror, despite the numerous terror groups in the
region (especially Yemen and Somalia). Why is that? Well, it's complicated.

France has been building up their special operations capability in Djibouti
during the last five years in anticipation of problems in Eritrea and
Somalia, both of which are involved in disputes with Ethiopia. The Addis
Ababa (Ethiopia)-Djibouti railroad is pretty lucrative for Djibouti and
France (because it is Ethiopia's main outlet to the sea) and fighting
between Ethiopia and either of its neighbors could create problems there.
American Special Forces in Djibouti have a base near the main French one.
It's pretty easy to spot on Google Earth.

U.S. forces were increased after resistance collapsed in Iraq three years
ago. Now there is even a small CIA base in Mogadishu, the traditional
capital of Somalia. The CIA, and similar outfits from other nations, also
work from Djibouti. But most of the effort is directed at monitoring what is
going on in the region (mainly Somalia and Yemen but also Eritrea, Kenya,
and Ethiopia), not at interfering with the local terrorists. Not much

Despite the presence, for most of the past decade, of thousands of American
and French commandos next door to Somalia there have been very few American
(or French) commando operations in Somalia. The main reason for this lack of
action was American diplomats who made a convincing argument that making a
major military effort in Somalia would not accomplish much. The Somalis will
keep on fighting, either with each other or with anyone who comes onto their
turf. Somalia has long been a mess on all levels, with little infrastructure
to make it useful as a terrorist base. The American diplomats argued that
Somalia was more of a black hole that al Qaeda members would simply
disappear into. This was particularly true because al Qaeda was mainly Arab
and Arabs were very contemptuous of black Africans. There was indeed
friction between Arabs and Somalis (who are black Africans who consider
themselves Arabs) when al Qaeda men fled from Iraq after Islamic radical
forces there collapsed in 2008. The friction continues and occasionally
turns into violence with terrorists killing each other.

In the last year more UAVs have been moved into Djibouti, plus small
detachments in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. Some of these UAVs have been armed
and there have been some more missile attacks, primarily in Somalia against
known Islamic terrorist leaders. But that's as far as it goes.

American diplomats have succeeded in getting more African countries to
provide peacekeepers for Somalia, partly with the promise of special
operations support from commandos and intelligence forces in Djibouti.
American Special Forces are expert in this kind of intelligence gathering
and in this case it has kept them out of a nasty war in Somalia.



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