Thursday, August 11, 2011

Max Boot is gonna learn us all up about Somalia! (UPDATED)

LULZ.
It is hard to believe anyone could be outraged by the U.S. government paying for contractors to train the Somalian armed forces. Those armed forces are the only thing standing in the way of a complete takeover of the country by the Shahab, the Taliban-like militia which has close links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is absolutely no appetite in Washington for sending any troops into Somalia, beyond perhaps an occasional Special Operations raid; everyone remembers all too vividly the Black Hawk Down disaster of 1993. So how do we stop the Shahab? The CIA has an active presence there. But that’s not enough. We also need to provide arms and training to the Somali government troops, and because we’re not willing to send even U.S. trainers, that job has been contracted out indirectly to a security company called Bancroft Global Development, based in Washington.
1. No one is "paying for contractors to train the Somalian armed forces." Somalia can barely be said to have armed forces. We're paying to train Ugandan and Burundian soldiers who operate as peacekeepers under the auspices of AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia.

2. I know you've been talking about the Iranian threat for a while, but I don't think Somalia's going to be taken over by intermediate-range ballistic missiles. More likely what you meant is Shabab, Somalia's AQ-linked militia. Shabab, not Shahab. (Dude, you wrote it three times. Don't tell me it's a typo.)

3. Don't you think it's a little strange to say that Americans lack the appetite for U.S. military action in Somalia -- with the exception of SOF raids -- because of troubling memories of the "Black Hawk Down" incident? Uh, all those Rangers and Delta guys were killed during a special operations raid.

4. This may be a news flash to you, but "we're not willing to send even U.S. trainers" almost anywhere (assuming you mean uniformed American servicemen) with the exception of Iraq and Afghanistan, in large part because of the massive manpower requirements of those wars. The bulk of U.S.-provided military training in partner nations is performed by contractors like DynCorp and MPRI (and innumerable subs); sometimes it's contracted through the State Department (as with putative peacekeeping training in Africa), and sometimes it's executed by DoD through foreign military sales.

5. Let's repeat this one to make sure you've got it: this isn't about training and equipping Somali military forces, but African peacekeepers deployed in Somalia. Maybe try reading and understanding next time.

(All of that said, I kind of agree with Boot that the Times article makes a mountain out of a molehill. It conflates peacekeeper training with mercenary military operations by highlighting the role of some European soldier of fortune that could've been an extra in "Blood Diamond," and intimates that U.S.-contracted PSCs are taking direct action against the Shabab in order to fill the gaps in what's described as a poorly-directed, "piecemeal" policy toward Somalia. Dude, this Rouget guy is not the "face of the American campaign against militants in Somalia," unlikely or otherwise. He's just a guy doing a job. The only "American campaign against militants in Somalia" is being waged by intelligence officers, drones, and the occasional special operator.)

UPDATE at 1555 ET 12 AUG: I threw this post together in about 90 seconds after reading Boot's piece yesterday afternoon, largely because I wanted to embarrass him before his mistakes were quickly noticed and surreptitiously corrected. It came as a small surprise when I checked back repeatedly today and noticed that the original post remained unchanged. That is, until some time in the last hour (h/t to @slowfalling on Twitter, who noticed and brought it to my attention); changes are in bold, and I've supplied the original language in brackets.
It is hard to believe anyone could be outraged by the U.S. government paying for contractors to train the African Union peacekeepers trying to keep Somalia from totally spinning out of control [orig.: the Somalian armed forces]. Those armed forces are the only thing standing in the way of a complete takeover of the country by the Shabab [orig.: the Shahab], the Taliban-like militia which has close links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There is absolutely no appetite in Washington for sending any troops into Somalia, beyond perhaps an occasional Special Operations raid; everyone remembers all too vividly the Black Hawk Down disaster of 1993. So how do we stop the Shabab [orig.: the Shahab]? The CIA has an active presence there. But that’s not enough. We also need to provide arms and training to African Union peacekeepers, and because we’re not willing to send even U.S. trainers, that job has been contracted out indirectly to a security company called Bancroft Global Development, based in Washington.
On a scale of 1-10, how surprised are you that neither Commentary nor Boot saw fit to make note of the corrections? -6 or so?

UPDATE 2: At Jeremy Scahill's suggestion, I feel it's my responsibility to retract all negative statements about Max Boot's expertise in the cultural and military dynamics of the Horn of Africa. I should also note that the errors in Boot's original post were merely spatio-temporal as opposed to factual, and that we could sort all these little disagreements out rather simply if we'd just send 100,000 U.S. troops to my office to conduct a fully-resourced Gulliver-centric counterinsurgency campaign en route to Mogadishu.

9 comments:

  1. Max Boot is an ass. That is all.

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  2. We Somalis dont want ANY Foriegn Invaders and Intervention and that INCLUDES the Ugandans, Burundians (AMISOM) who are Criminals (also did Crimes in Congo) and have killed thousands of innocent Somalis and invaded after a War of Aggreasikn by Ethiopia that started in July.2nd and then went full scale invasion with U.S. Air power and special ops in the new year of 2006/2007 for several weeks and toppled the Somali Islamic Courts Union who brought the first Peace,security and justice to southern Sonalia in 15 years. P.S. Every statistic points against foriegn intervention. It prolings conflicts, heightens violences, higher deaths over long term. Best solution is to apologize to the Somali people, pay reparationa for.all people killed (bc was war of aggression-considered worst.crime in international law) and leave Somalia to the Somali people. Our best bet for future is to have 1 faction win out w/o foriegn intervention or meddling. Statistics prove that 85% of timesince WW2 a civil war does not restart when 1 faction wins out over the others and 50% of the time does not restart in a negotiated settlement. My people need Shebaab to win. Islam is the solution to my people's underlying clan divisions.

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  3. Gulliver, actually we are helping to train TFG troops. We're paying for them to be sent to Uganda for some basic training. One of the big contractors you refer to(though not one of the ones you mentioned in your post) has vetted and transported I think so far it's been about 1,000 TFG who have been to Uganda and back.

    Lil

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  4. Oh and yes, the bulk of the money is AMISOM support but that is very old news to anyone who pays attention to money in the PKO account.

    Lil

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  5. Lil -- Yeah, I'm familiar with the efforts with TFG troops, but that's not what the article was about and I feel confident it's not what Boot was getting at. And I know we've got intel guys and maybe SOF working with their SOF guys, which the article touches on just a little bit (somewhat confusingly and misleadingly).

    I probably should've written my "1)" somewhat more precisely to make that clear, but I dashed this one off in about 45 seconds.

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  6. Oh my, I'd missed the Shahab and Somalian stuff...nice touches.

    (I'm having trouble with my login hence the anon, apologies).

    Lil

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  7. This really is the pot calling the kettle black, Gulliver. As many egregious mistakes as Boot makes, you not only know sweet FA about security issues in Africa, but you've regularly derided the idea that we should bother to spend time learning about them. Good on you for calling him out for inaccuracies, but have a little humility here.

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  8. MK -- Appreciate your thoughts. But when did this happen?

    you've regularly derided the idea that we should bother to spend time learning about them

    I hope you can give me a timestamp so I can check to make sure my cat wasn't on my computer. (He hates Africa.)

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  9. I have relied on combat boots to help me get the job done.These are the most comfortable and durable boots I have ever worn,period.
    Desert Combat Boots

    ReplyDelete