Why Are Your Tax Dollars Funding Secret CIA Prisons in Somalia?
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Today, Somali government forces control roughly thirty square miles of territory in Mogadishu thanks in large part to the US-funded and -armed 9,000-member AMISOM force. Much of the rest of the city is under the control of the Shabab or warlords. Outgunned, the Shabab has increasingly relied on the linchpins of asymmetric warfare—suicide bombings, roadside bombs and targeted assassinations. The militant group has repeatedly shown that it can strike deep in the heart of its enemies’ territory. On June 9, in one of its most spectacular suicide attacks to date, the Shabab assassinated the Somali government’s minister of interior affairs and national security, Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan Farah, who was attacked in his residence by his niece. The girl, whom the minister was putting through university, blew herself up and fatally wounded her uncle. He died hours later in the hospital. Farah was the fifth Somali minister killed by the Shabab in the past two years and the seventeenth official assassinated since 2006. Among the suicide bombers the Shabab has deployed were at least three US citizens of Somali descent; at least seven other Americans have died fighting alongside the Shabab, a fact that has not gone unnoticed in Washington or Mogadishu.
During his confirmation hearings in June to become the head of the US Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven said, “From my standpoint as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard” at Somalia. McRaven said that in order to expand successful “kinetic strikes” there, the United States will have to increase its use of drones as well as on-the-ground intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. “Any expansion of manpower is going to have to come with a commensurate expansion of the enablers,” McRaven declared. The expanding US counterterrorism program in Mogadishu appears to be part of that effort.
In an interview with The Nation in Mogadishu, Abdulkadir Moallin Noor, the minister of state for the presidency, confirmed that US agents “are working with our intelligence” and “giving them training.” Regarding the US counterterrorism effort, Noor said bluntly, “We need more; otherwise, the terrorists will take over the country.”
It is unclear how much control, if any, Somalia’s internationally recognized president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has over this counterterrorism force or if he is even fully briefed on its operations. The CIA personnel and other US intelligence agents “do not bother to be in touch with the political leadership of the country. And that says a lot about the intentions,” says Aynte. “Essentially, the CIA seems to be operating, doing the foreign policy of the United States. You should have had State Department people doing foreign policy, but the CIA seems to be doing it across the country.”
While the Somali officials interviewed for this story said the CIA is the lead US agency on the Mogadishu counterterrorism program, they also indicated that US military intelligence agents are at times involved. When asked if they are from JSOC or the Defense Intelligence Agency, the senior Somali intelligence official responded, “We don’t know. They don’t tell us.”
In April Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali man the United States alleged had links to the Shabab, was captured by JSOC forces in the Gulf of Aden. He was held incommunicado on a US Navy vessel for more than two months; in July he was transferred to New York and indicted on terrorism charges. Warsame’s case ignited a legal debate over the Obama administration’s policies on capturing and detaining terror suspects, particularly in light of the widening counterterrorism campaigns in Somalia and Yemen.