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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-10-07 08:32 PM
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U.S. stirring pot in Somalia

AIDAN HARTLEY, The Spectator
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2007

KIUNGA, Somalia - He was a quiet American, and an oddity in Kiunga. For 20 hours I had rammed the Range Rover through tse-tse fly-infested jungles teeming with buffalo. When earlier this month I limped into this Indian Ocean village, within earshot of U.S. air strikes against Islamists across the frontier in Somalia, astonished Swahili fishermen said mine was the first vehicle to arrive for three months. Soon afterward, the American - let's call him "Carter" - appeared out of nowhere.

Two U.S. navy warships bobbed on the horizon and we could hear fighter jets hunting for Islamic militants a few miles to the north. Carter said he worked for U.S. Civil Affairs. He had the awkward manner of a stage actor who doesn't know what to do with his hands. His skin was pallid beneath the equatorial sun and for hours he sat alone, watching children play among fish bones in the dust. When we went to eat with the locals, Carter refused to join us. He had brought his own food. He was unable to speak Swahili and said he was no good at languages, having failed in his attempts to learn Arabic ...

Somalia's current phase of chaos is not simply the latest episode in a civil conflict that has dragged on since 1991; it is also the direct result of a rogue CIA operation that went badly wrong. Al-Qa'ida fugitives have long taken refuge in Mogadishu. After 9/11, Washington did a policy U-turn by recruiting as bounty-hunters the very same warlords its forces had fought during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle. In return for suitcases of cash, the warlords handed over a flow of Al-Qa'ida suspects, who were ferried on rendition flights to the new U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti ...

The terrorists are associated by the Americans with the Islamic Courts Union, which has operated in Mogadishu since the 1990s. A couple of years ago, this coalition of Muslims, by no means all of them militants, began to assert themselves as a political force, and quickly gained popularity among residents exhausted by the gun rule of the warlords. To the Americans, however, the courts were just another manifestation of Al-Qa'ida. The CIA tried to organize some of the most brutal warlords into an "anti-terrorism" political alliance against the them. The policy backfired: Mogadishu residents rose up against the warlords in support of the Islamists, who last June seized control of the ruined city and became its de facto government ...
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