Jean-Jacques Cornish

US involved in shadow war in Somalia


The United States is being increasingly drawn into a clandestine war in Somalia.

It is a battle that will embroil the next occupant of the Whitehouse -whomever he or she might be.

The US was at pains to stay out of Somalia following the 1993 setback known as Black Hawk Down when 18 American troops died fighting warlord Mohammed Aidid.

US troops, to use an old cowboy cliche, got outta there. They avoided Somalia like the plague for some years.

However they remained concerned about the incubation of terrorists in the virtually ungoverned Somalia and secretly supported the  2006 Ethiopian intervention to drive Islamists out of Mogadishu.

In the event, that give  rise to  the terrorist movement Al Shabaab – which means the youth in Arabic – and forced the Obama administration to think again.

The decider was Al Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 people dead.

Obama  felt obliged to drop his reluctance to put boots on the ground.

The battle against Al Shabaab special forces,  air and drone strikes, private contractors and African allies.

US attacks have increased exponentially on the movement that has been driven out of Somalia cities but manages to make indiscriminate attacks on urban targets from its rural bases.

The terrorists have struck Somalia police and army installations, popular restaurants and hotels and African Union bases.

The US had considerable success against Al Shabaab which was growing bolder and more daring its attacks.

Inevitably, though, there has been collateral damage with US forces inadvertently killing Somali government fighters.

They have been forced to mount more and more so-called self-defense attacks on Al Shabaab forcing, analysts says,  to an inevitable escalation in US military involvement in Somalia.

Michael Stock, director of the Washington-based Bancroft Global Development says they are in the business of nurturing a kernel of Somali fighters, trained by marines, around which a competent, sustainable defence force can be built.

They’re determined not to repeat the costly mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq where large armies are formed that could not get the job done.

The elite Somali troops are also getting training at the US military task force in Djibouti, the self-governing enclave in the Horn  where Washington has its only permanent base on the African continent.

Independent analysts fear that the poor training, lack of  funds and equipment and poor motivation of the Somali forces will draw the US project out for many years.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.