News sources report that Islamist fighters knew a French rescue team was coming for an intelligence agent being held prisoner in a southern Somali town. “Sources in lawless Somalia suggested the reason Saturday’s raid had failed was that the al-Qaeda-linked Shebab group holding the hostage had received advance warning.” Reports suggested that the team had been detected on arrival by civilians and further implied that civilians may have been killed by the attacking team as they approached the target area.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said one French soldier had died and another had gone missing during the raid, adding that 17 guerrillas had been killed.
He said “all indications” pointed to the conclusion that the hostage, a French intelligence agent with the alias of Denis Allex, had been killed by his captors.
The Shebab denied Allex was dead, but said they would decide his fate within two days. They also claimed they had captured a wounded member of the French assault team.
The French assault team may have been outnumbered 2 to 1 by their enemies. “We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters,” said another Somali, who wished to remain anonymous. “Their mission was impossible and not very professional.”
But other reports suggest that the fiasco occurred when the commandos attacked the wrong house. The BBC describes a confused action. In any event, the Islamist forces declared their intention to wreak vengeance on France.
“In the end, it will be the French citizens who will inevitably taste the bitter consequences of their government’s devil-may-care attitude towards hostages,” the Islamists said in a statement obtained by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
President Obama had authorized as yet unspecified US participation in the mission. In the event the US assets did not engage in combat.
Obama sent his notice in accordance with the War Powers Resolution to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) today.
“United States forces provided limited technical support to the French forces in that operation, but took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage,” Obama wrote.
“United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed. These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation. The U.S. forces that supported this operation left Somalia by approximately 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on January 11, 2013.”
This may be an indication that al-Qaeda in Mali and the sub-Saharan region aren’t going to roll over and die. It is certainly proof that simply being on the Western side of military mission does not guarantee victory. Each operation is won on its own merits. It is not guaranteed by the fact of the side that you are on.
One reason the attacks on US missions in North Africa should be thoroughly investigated is to determine why the intelligence of attacking Islamist was so good. Why did they know when Ambassador Stevens would be in the consulate? How did they know the location of the CIA safe house? Where did they get the heavy weapons — including mortars — which were used to kill two security contractors?
The attack was masked by a cloud disinformation about a “anti-Muslim video” which the administration bought or pretended to buy; a fable so effective that Susan Rice repeated it on talk show after talk show to make a fool of herself before millions. And when Mitt Romney, in a fit of common sense, had the temerity to doubt the administration’s tale during the presidential debate, Candy Crowley was there to set Romney straight.
It’s as if the administration didn’t want to know, didn’t need to know, wouldn’t let anyone know. They were invincibly secure. Secure even in their ignorance. All that mattered was the round of parties, the appointments to high office, the great fetes.
Surely it is worthwhile to ask how the Shebab knew the French were coming. One blog suggests that one the ground spies may have been doubled by the Islamists.
For such an operation, one would need to have spies on the ground to verify the presence of the hostage. The Somali government’s spy agency would be the perfect one to provide agents to assist with such an operation. Given the fact that the Shabab have been infiltrating agents into the government intelligence apparatus for the past 4 years, it is likely that they may have misled the French and led them into a trap. How else does one explain attacking a completely wrong compound that would immediately be descended upon by dozens or perhaps hundreds of Shabab fighters heavily armed and with antiaircraft technicals according to reports from the city?
The Associated Press has a report which suggests that things went very wrong for the French raiders.
It was too dark to see beyond the brief glow of flashlights, but noise was everywhere, said Ali Bulhan, who woke up when the earth started vibrating to the beat of the helicopter rotors. And the flashlights were abruptly extinguished when the French soldiers shot the Somalis who had turned them on to see what was happening in their town in the dead of night, said town elder Hussein Yasin …
Le Drian said the government decided to stage the rescue a month ago, when Allex’s location seemed to have settled down “in a spot accessible by the sea.”
Helicopters were dispatched from a French ship that had been on an enforced news blackout for weeks, according to the French newspaper Le Point. When the commandos arrived in Bulomarer late Friday, children began screaming in confusion and fighters from the Islamist al-Shabab, which has controlled the town for years, began racing along the streets, their cell phones pressed to their ears.
Yasin said the gunbattle started on the ground when the French commandos encountered an Islamist checkpoint. Al Bulhan said only a few hours could have passed between that moment and the time when the French helicopters stopped firing on homes and instead ferried the surviving French troops to safety “but it felt like an entire day.”
France is now fighting what is perhaps Europe’s opening battle to defend the Old Continent against militant Islam; for Europe is in al-Qaeda in Africa’s sights. But so far French President Hollande has been doing about as well as Jimmy Carter did against the Ayatollahs. Not good at all.
Nor have President Obama and his administration covered themselves with glory as defenders of the West; they talked incessantly about “leading from behind” when all they do is let themselves be led around by the nose. Everybody has been waiting for Kid Obama to show his vaunted moves. But all anyone’s seen so far is a guy waltzing around the ring.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the campaign slogan that “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” isn’t the certainty it’s made out to be. The incompetent political elites of the world are proving themselves quite capable of losing. They are manifesting a disturbing lack of quality which if continued indefinitely must mean disaster. The last time the West realized that it had mislaid some ineffable quality which constituted their superiority was in June 1940. Some may have guessed it by Warsaw but when Dunkirk rolled around it was plain to see that Something — that effortless superiority which the public presumed it could rely upon at need — was gone.
It took a catastrophe for whole peoples to realize they’d been living in a dream. To understand they were governed by mediocrities and fools. But by that time it was almost too late to swerve from the abyss. William Manchester described the crisis of the last century in words which are strangely evocative today.
But in those shabby years His Majesty’s Governments believed that there were some things the country ought not to know, and that their policy of duplicity–which at times amounted to conspiracy–would be vindicated in the end. … The appeasers had been powerful; they had controlled The Times and the BBC; they had been largely drawn from the upper classes, and their betrayal of England’s greatness would be neither forgotten nor forgiven by those who, gulled by the mystique of England’s class system, had believed as Englishmen had believed for generations that public school boys governed best. The appeasers destroyed oligarchic rule which, though levelers may protest, had long governed well. If ever men betrayed their class, these were they.
Because their possessions were great, the appeasers had much to lose … so, with their eyes open, they sought accommodation with a criminal regime, turned a blind eye to its iniquities, ignored its frequent resort to murder and torture, submitted to extortion, humiliation, and abuse until, having sold out all who had sought to stand shoulder to shoulder with Britain and keep the bridge against the new barbarism, they led England herself into the cold damp shadow of the gallows, friendless save for the demoralized republic across the Channel. Their end came when the House of Commons, in a revolt of conscience, wrenched power from them and summoned to the colors the one man who had foretold all that had passed, who had tried, year after year, alone and mocked, to prevent the war by urging the only policy which would have done the job. And now, in the desperate spring of 1940, with the reins of power at last firm in his grasp, he resolved to lead Britain and her fading empire in one last great struggle worthy of all they had been and meant, to arm the nation, not only with weapons but also with the mace of honor, creating in every English breast a soul beneath the ribs of death.
Today we are told that our biggest problems things like Global Warming, debt ceilings and assault rifles in America. Are they? The West was lucky once. It may not be so lucky again.