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Secrets of the Secret War: Why Did Weekend Somalia Raid Fail?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that "these operations in Libya and Somalia send a strong message to the world that the United States will spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable, no matter where they hide or how long they evade justice."

"We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values," Hagel said.

Still, the government turned more focus on the al-Libi capture, even as some Libyans angrily charged the U.S. with kidnapping the wanted terrorist. As if the Al-Shabaab nut wasn't hard enough to crack, the failure of the raid let the terror group add another feather to its cap as it rallies jihadists in the wake of the horrifying attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.

Thus the details coming from Washington were shrouded in mystery much like other operations in Somalia during this administration.

President Obama told Congress in the “consolidated” version of this summer’s report on U.S. activities consistent with the War Powers Resolution that “in Somalia, the U.S. military has worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”

A July report by the U.N. Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea charged that the Obama administration has expanded its secret war in Somalia in such a way that could violate the arms embargo.

“A large part of the assistance provided to the Somali security forces involved in counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations at the federal and regional levels has not been reported. According to multiple diplomatic and military sources, the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom are increasingly involved in directly supporting intelligence services in ‘Somaliland’, ‘Puntland’ and Mogadishu, at times in violation of resolutions 733 (1992) and 1425 (2002),” the report states.

“From August 2012 to March 2013, the Monitoring Group identified 84 civilian flights operated to Mogadishu and ‘Puntland’ by the United States-based air companies Prescott Support Co. and RAM Air Services, which are connected to United States support to ‘Puntland’ and Mogadishu intelligence services, 54 in comparison to 65 flights counted in the same period of the previous mandate of the Monitoring Group, indicating an increase in United States support.”

Al-Shabaab claimed in July that it killed a veteran CIA official-turned-contractor who oversaw the agency’s September 2001 plunge into Afghanistan as well as another CIA operative as U.S. officials accompanied an African Union convoy from the airport in Mogadishu. The U.S. government didn't respond to the public claims.

Soon after that claim, though, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter became the highest-ranking Pentagon official to ever visit Uganda to meet with “senior government and military leaders to affirm the growing security partnership between the United States and Uganda,” the other country that Al-Shabaab claimed was working with the U.S. on the suicide-bombed Mogadishu mission.

Carter "met with U.S. personnel supporting the Ugandan military’s effort to remove leaders of the LRA from the battlefield and a separate contingent of U.S. forces providing specialized counterterrorism training to Ugandan forces who will deploy as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.”

U.S. Special Forces waged a helicopter raid in southern Somalia in 2009 to kill al-Qaeda-linked Saleh Ali Nabhan, wanted in the 2002 bombing of a resort in Kenya and linked to the 1998 embassy bombings.

That raid also took place near Barawe. At least four helicopters swooped in from a nearby U.S. vessel, fired at and struck Nabhan's vehicle, and then one of the helicopters landed to grab the four bodies.

"We must not make the same mistake with Al-Shabaab that we did with al-Qaeda and that is viewing it as only a local or regional threat," Don Borelli, COO of The Soufan Group and a 25-year FBI veteran, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. "In the early 1990s, many smart people ignored al-Qaeda because it was seen as a group only focused on the Middle East and Central Asia. We have seen how a terrorist organization gone unchecked can morph into a global threat. We must not let that happen with Al-Shabaab."


What books does Bridget Johnson recommend for 2013? Click here to see her picks at the Freedom Academy Book Club.