Whoops. Turns out all that stuff I said up there was wrong, and this is an example of exactly how the light footprint can be done.
American commandos killed one of the most wanted Islamic militants in Africa in a daylight raid in southern Somalia on Monday, according to American and Somali officials, an indication of the Obama administration’s willingness to use combat troops strategically against Al Qaeda’s growing influence in the region.
Western intelligence agents have described the militant, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, as the ringleader of a Qaeda cell in Kenya responsible for the bombing of an Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002. Mr. Nabhan may have also played a role in the attacks on two American embassies in East Africa in 1998.
American military forces have been hunting him for years, and on Monday, around 1 p.m., villagers near the town of Baraawe said four military helicopters suddenly materialized over the horizon and shot at two trucks rumbling through the desert. The trucks were carrying leaders of the Shabab, an Islamist extremist group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s weak but internationally recognized government. The Shabab work hand-in-hand with foreign terrorists, according to Western and Somali agents, and in the past few months, as the battle for control of Somalia has intensified, the group seems to be drawing increasingly close to Al Qaeda.
American officials on Monday provided few details, but confirmed that Special Operations forces, operating from a nearby American warship, participated in the helicopter raid.
Ok, ok, I'm being smarmy and I'm not really engaging substantively in this debate. I get it. And just because you can do it in one place doesn't mean you can do it -- or that it's the best way to do it -- in another place. The Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier is less accessible to offshore assets. There are more targets there. Surveillance is probably more difficult than in the desert of Somalia. I get all of this.
But please, please, can we stop dealing in self-assured assertions like "remote, kinetic counterterrorism would never work in South Asia"? Killing one guy ain't the same as winning the war, I know. But until we (all of us that are involved in this debate, I mean) stop taking everything so personally and clutching on to our beliefs like baby birds, stop refusing to accept anything that doesn't fit into our construct, stop labeling people as "gets it" or "doesn't get it," it's going to be really difficult to make any progress.