Obama investing in Somalia govt survival
Posted Monday, September 28 2009 at 00:00
The recent killing in Somalia of a top US target shows that the Obama administration is fully committed to taking military action in support of the shaky Transitional Federal Government.
The September 14 helicopter attack that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who had long been hunted by the US for his alleged role in terror attacks in Kenya, signalled to militant Islamist groups that “we have a long reach and a long memory,” US counterterrorism expert Jack Cloonan told the Associated Press.
Nabhan, linked to the 1998 East African embassy bombings and the 2002 suicide attack on the Paradise Hotel near Mombasa, ranked alongside fellow Kenyan Fazul Abdullah Mohammed as the US’ most wanted foreign fighters in Somalia.
The United States regards Fazul as the leader of Al Qaida’s East Africa cell.
He is also said to be a principal figure behind both the attacks with which Nabhan was associated.
The daytime raid that reportedly killed five other foreign fighters, in addition to Nabhan, leaves no doubt that the United States will try to kill Fazul whenever a suitable opportunity arises.
And Washington may feel growing urgency to act. Somali sources recently told The New York Times that Fazul is training a cell of suicide bombers in Mogadishu.
At the same time, the Obama administration appears determined to proceed cautiously in its military operations in Somalia.
“We’ve all learned how important it is to avoid civilian casualties,” a US official told Reuters following the helicopter strike which was carried out only after Nabhan had entered an unpopulated area.
The United States launched cruise missiles at targets in Somalia on at least five occasions during the Bush years, resulting in the deaths of dozens of Somali villagers.
That collateral damage enraged many Somalis, and thus benefited the Islamist forces seeking to overthrow the US-supported transitional government.
Somalis generally welcomed the most recent operation, according to an unnamed activist in Somalia quoted by Reuters.
“On the one hand, people are relieved. It happened in an isolated place with very little damage or killing of innocents,” he said. “And no one is crying about the loss of individuals who are not Somali.”
Kenya, however, was critical of the American operation.
Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula complained in an interview with Reuters last week that the US had carried out the mission “without information or cooperation or collaboration.”