UPDATE 10. September 2021: The highest-grossing film in South Korea this year is a true story set in Somalia - but a false narrative.

UPDATE 10. March 2021: Inside the US War On Terror in Somalia (video)

UPDATE 23. January 2021: Ugandan army says it has killed 189 al Shabaab fighters in Somalia

UPDATE 03. January 2020: U.S. airstrikes in Somalia kill three al-Shabab extremists

UPDATE 22. December 2020: U.S. Air Force Tests Drone-Killing Microwave Weapon In Africa 

UPDATE 21. December 2020 (Soltice): President Trump had ordered all U.S. troops out of Somalia before the end of the year. Today U.S. Navy vessels have appeared off Mogadishu to facilitate the withdrawal of the estimated 500-700 U.S. military personnel from Somali territory, despite opposition from the Biden-Camp, which seems to be set firmly on the perpetual war agenda and the military-industrial complex demands.

UPDATE 10. December 2020: US Warplanes Hit Somali Rebels Days After US Troop Withdrawal Announced - STOP THE WAR - MAKE PEACE!!!

UPDATE 17. September 2020: USA DRAGS KENYA DEEPER INTO REGIONAL WARFARE

UPDATE 27. August 2020: U.S. military airstrike in Somalia kills Al-Shabaab militant

UPDATE 14. August 2020: MUST READ: Private U.S. Contractors Part of the ‘Kill Chain’ in East Africa “Anti-Terrorist Operations”

US Led War in Somalia: U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Airstrikes Allegedly “Against Terrorists”

Airstrikes, military occupations and the failure to realize the economic potential of the Horn of Africa

By Abayomi Azikiwe - 08. December 2018

Somalia has been the focus of oil and natural gas exploration. This coupled with its geographically strategic location on the Indian Ocean and near the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world,

***

Pentagon bombing operations against the Horn of Africa state of Somalia have killed numerous people over the last several weeks under the guise of the United States “war on terrorism.”

On November 30 the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) reported that airstrikes were launched on al-Shabaab positions in Lebede killing nine people. (Reuters, Dec. 2)

Although Washington routinely claims these bombing operations only target so-called “terrorists” there is no way of verifying who is actually struck on the ground. Other damage such as the deaths of civilians and the dislocation of people in small towns and rural areas are never acknowledged by the military.

Official statements from AFRICOM indicate that there are approximately 500 soldiers stationed in Somalia. The actual numbers have increased since the ascendancy of the administration of President Donald Trump during 2017 as a part of his purported foreign policy aims of battling armed Islamist groups such as al-Shabaab.

Other AFRICOM reports suggest there have been 37 bombing operations inside this oil-rich Horn of Africa state over the course of 2018. Successive U.S. administrations have supported the federalized governance system which was installed under the tenure of former President George W. Bush, Jr., who founded AFRICOM in early 2008.

Somalia conflict map 

Just one week prior to the November 30 attacks, the U.S. announced several bombing missions in Harardere in Galmudug state where over 40 people were killed. The November 19-21 airstrikes were said to have hit an al-Shabaab training camp along with a weapons cache.

During early December a ground offensive was launched by the Western-trained Somali National Army (SNA) commandos against areas controlled by al-Shabaab around the farming village of Awdhegle in the Lower Shabelle region. The raids were reported by Somalian intelligence officials noting that the attacks received support from AFRICOM forces along with units from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which still has thousands of U.S. and United Nations-backed troops occupying the country. (Association Press, Dec. 5)

Somalian governmental sources which spoke on the condition of anonymity said the raids on al-Shabaab areas in the Lower Shabelle were designed to weaken the economic base of the organization. The U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu said that al-Shabaab taxes merchants and residents in the area in order to fund its activities.

In an apparent retaliatory attack on December 6, two generals in the SNA were killed when a roadside bomb exploded destroying their vehicle in the village of Dhanaane located on the coastal road linking the capital of Mogadishu to the port city of Marka. Al-Shabaab later claimed responsibility for the attack in an announcement over their broadcasting outlet Andalus Radio. (VOA, Dec. 7)

These developments are complicated by the emergence of two distinct factions within al-Shabaab over the last two years. One grouping is reportedly linked with al-Qaeda and a minority faction, which is allied to the Islamic State (ISIS). (Canadian Press, Dec. 7)

Several killings have been attributed to this rivalry within the ranks of al-Shabaab. Both groups are heavily dependent upon the forced taxation of businesses and residents inside the areas where they operate in the central and southern regions of Somalia.

Canadian Press and AP dispatches reported that the factionalism has increased substantially in recent months noting:

“The ISIS-affiliated group in Somalia, largely made up of al-Shabab defectors, first announced its presence in 2016 with attacks in the far north, far from Mogadishu and most al-Shabab strongholds. Though estimated at a few hundred fighters at most, their emergence in one of the world’s most unstable countries has been alarming enough that the U.S. military began targeting it with airstrikes a year ago.”

These same articles continued by saying:

“With no strong government to protect them, businessmen often say they have no choice but to pay in exchange for protection. Among the companies targeted by suspected ISIS-linked extremists is Somalia’s telecom giant, Hormuud, which intelligence officials say has lost up to 10 employees in attacks in recent weeks. Hormuud officials did not respond to requests for comment. Businesses worry that the rise of another extremist group seeking cash, as well as a new effort by Somalia’s central government to impose taxes, will bleed them dry.”

The Economic Interests of Imperialism in Somalia

Since the immediate years after the conclusion of World War II,   makes the country important in the overall global economic system.

Beginning around 1948 the search for oil and gas resources began. In the early 1950s these efforts were conducted by Agip (Italian) and Sinclair Oil Corporation, then based in the U.S.

Later during the 1980s, when the country was in sharp decline due to its internal conflict and the failure of the U.S. to provide any genuine assistance economically, several multi-national petroleum firms won concessions for exploration. These corporations included Conoco-Phillips, Shell (Pectin), Amoco, Eni, Total, Exxon Mobil and Texaco. Eventually the resources were designated “force majeure” meaning that these companies reserved the right to come back for exploitation at a later time period when the political situation became more stable.

Somalia al-Shabaab fighters on transport truck

In recent years, the northern breakaway region of Puntland has seen drilling by the Canadian-based Africa Oil and Africa Energy corporations. This interest in oil and natural gas exploration are not confined to Somalia.

All along the East African coast from Somalia right down through Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, there have been monumental discoveries of offshore natural gas and oil resources in the region. Consequently, the imperialist states encouraged by the multinational corporations and international financial institutions are eager to stake claims on the potentialities of enormous profits related to energy resources exploitation.

The increasing presence of AFRICOM is clearly related to the ongoing quest for imperialist domination on the continent. With the People’s Republic of China (PRC) emerging as a major trading and development partner with African Union (AU) member-states, Washington and its allies in London and Paris are quite concerned over the possibility of losing out to the PRC as it relates to economic cooperation.

Impact of U.S. Foreign Policy in Somalia

As alluded to earlier in this report, Washington and its imperialist partners have been adamant about maintaining control over the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean basin regions. This concern has been manifested in the repeated interference and interventions into the internal affairs of Somalia.

With the recent death of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, efforts were made by the corporate media acting on behalf of the ruling class to paint a picture of the 41sthead-of-state as a “statesman” and “consensus builder.” This could not be further from the actual truth of events during his one-term presidency from 1989 to 1993.

In addition to the unjustified Pentagon invasion of Panama in late 1989 and the massive bombing, ground invasion and imposition of draconian sanctions against Iraq in the first Gulf War, Bush also intervened in Somalia in December 1992 on the eve of his departure from the White House. Operation Restore Hope was ostensibly designed to provide relief for Somalian civilians on the brink of famine resulting from the collapse of the previous government of Mohamed Siad Barre in early 1991.

Nonetheless, the deployment of 12,000 U.S. Marines to Somalia by Bush was part and parcel of the desire to reassert the military prowess of the U.S. in the aftermath of its colossal defeats in Southeast Asia during the mid-1970s, Lebanon in 1983-84 and Southern Africa in the late 1980s, where the world’s leading imperialist state was forced to retreat after humiliating failures. The successor to Bush, President Bill Clinton, inherited the Somalian invasion where within a matter of months huge sections of the country rose in rebellion against the U.S. and U.N. occupations, leading to the deaths of thousands of Somalians and the loss of hundreds Pentagon and so-called peacekeeping soldiers during 1993-1994. The U.S. and the U.N were both forced to leave Somalia by 1994.

This did not sit well with Washington and some twelve years later the Pentagon began to bomb Somalia under the leadership of the-then President George W. Bush, Jr. By 2007, the U.S. had facilitated another invasion, this time utilizing the military forces of neighboring Ethiopia and later Kenya. AMISOM, an aggregation of troops from several regional states, was assembled, trained, armed and deployed as a mechanism to implement U.S. foreign policy in Somalia and the entire Horn of Africa. This same policy continued under President Barack Obama right through to the current administration of Trump who has altered the regulations guiding military involvement in Somalia to justify the deepening of the intervention utilizing commando units and airstrikes.

However, after decades of military involvement and political machinations the situation remains unstable. The Somalians only hope for sustainable peace and development lies within the national unity of its people absent of the tutelage of the U.S.

Author:

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research. The original source of this article is Copyright © Abayomi Azikiwe, Global Research, 2018

All images in this article are from the author

* Note to readers: Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet fora etc.

===

To the Masters Of War

Let me ask you one question

Is your money that good

Will it buy you forgiveness

Do you think that it could

 

I think you will find

When your death takes its toll

All the money you made

Will never buy back your soul.

Congratulations, Bob, for the Nobel Prize for Literature. For this song (plus more than a thousand others) that are pure poetry, you surely earned it. If Americans read these words to Masters of War, and learned from them, we might not all be facing our own imminent demise, and most of America wouldn't have supported the GENOCIDE of other innocents in other countries.

Masters Of War by Bob Dylan

Bob DylanThe Avener

Come your masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build all death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

And I hope that you die…

===

UPDATES:

PROLOGUE: The say it is a BOX-OFFICE HIT, but in reality it is just another fake story to feed the narrative, to appeal to the most primitive senses of those going for this film to the cinema and an example how to still make make money - only not for the Somalis.

The highest-grossing film in South Korea this year is a true story set in Somalia

A scene from the 'Escape from Mogadishu' film.

In 'Escape from Mogadishu,' North Koreans and South Koreans work towards a common goal. WELL GO USA INC.

 

 

By Carlos Mureithi - 10. 

A new South Korean film set during the Somali civil war in 1991 is the highest-grossing film in the Asian country so far this year.

With $26.9 million in ticket sales, Escape from Mogadishu has raked in more than the Hollywood movies Black Widow and Fast & Furious 9according to the Korean film council, despite being released after them and being shown on less screens. It is also the first film to surpass 3 million ticket sales in the country this year.

Directed by South Korean Ryoo Seung-wan, Escape from Mogadishu is based on real events of 1991 when North Korean and South Korean embassy workers and their families, trapped and stranded in the civil war, unexpectedly unite despite their countries’ differences to make a dangerous attempt to escape the city.

“This is a story about humanity—living against adversity,” Peter Kawa, who plays the role of a police officer called Khalil in the film, tells Quartz. He is one of six Kenyan actors in the film.

Escape from Mogadishu was entirely shot in Morocco in 2019 and it was released in South Korea on July 28 of this year. It stars the South Koreans Kim Yoon-seok, Jo In-sung, Heo Joon-ho and Kim So-jin.

Escape from Mogadishu is one of many films related to the Somali civil war, including the 2001 Hollywood movie Black Hawk Dawn by director Ridley Scott.

The Somali civil war started in 1988, with the country’s military forces fighting against different rebel groups who were opposing president Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship. Barre was eventually overthrown by opposition groups in 1991.

South Korea had sent diplomats to Somalia in 1987, the same year the two established diplomatic ties, to earn the support of African members of the United Nations as part of its efforts to be admitted to the global body. North Korea and Somalia had established diplomatic relations earlier, in 1967.

A poster of the 'Escape from Mogadishu' film.

Seeking safety. WELL GO USA INC.

North Korea and South Korea have had a tense relationship for decades as both claim to be the legitimate government of the entire Korean Peninsula, which the US and the Soviet Union divided in 1945. But in Escape from Mogadishu, this rivalry takes a back seat as their citizens work towards a common goal.

“However much people do not agree according to country,” Kawa says, “when it comes now not to saving lives, they get to work together and they remind themselves that they’re all they have—each other.”

Author:

Carlos Mureithi

Carlos Mureithi - East Africa correspondent

===

Inside the US War On Terror in Somalia

•Mar 10, 2021

VICE News

Fifteen years after the creation of al-Shabaab in Somalia, terror still reigns and the reality on the ground just shifted more in their favor. In a last ditch effort to leave a mark on foreign policy before his ouster, President Trump announced a drawdown of US troops in global hotspots around the world, including around 700 in Somalia. With no soldiers on the ground the plan promised to provide support through an already controversial and secretive drone program–which watchdog groups say has killed exponentially more civilians than the US admits. VICE News travels to the frontline of Somalia’s war against al-Shabaab to see what the US pullout means for the next chapter in the war on terror. Check out VICE News for more: https://vicenews.com

===

Ugandan army says it has killed 189 al Shabaab fighters in Somalia

By Reuters - 23. January 2021

a group of people wearing military uniforms: Ugandan troops are part of the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia [File: AP Photo]

© Ugandan troops are part of the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia [File: AP Photo]

KAMPALA - Ugandan soldiers working as part of a peacekeeping force in Somalia have killed 189 al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters in an attack on one of their camps, the Ugandan army said.

Ugandan troops are part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, whose aim is to support the central government and stop al Shabaab’s efforts to topple it.

The Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) said in a statement that its soldiers on Friday had raided al Shabaab hideouts in the villages of Sigaale, Adimole and Kayitoy, just over 100 km (62 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“(The raid)... saw the forces put out of action 189 al Qaeda-linked fighters and destroyed a number of military hardware and items used by the terrorist attacks,” UPDF said.

There was no immediate comment from al Shabaab on the attack.

The group - which aims to topple Somalia’s government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic law - controlled most of south-central Somalia until 2011, when it was driven out of Mogadishu by African Union troops.

Despite the loss of territory, al Shabaab still carries out major gun and bomb attacks, often claiming casualty numbers that conflict with those given by government officials.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema, writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Gareth Jones

===

U.S. airstrikes in Somalia kill three al-Shabab extremists

By Ed Adamczyk - 04. January 2020

U.S. forces, seen here embarking fort East Africa, killed three members of the al-Shabab extremist group in Jan. 1 airstrikes in Somalia. Photo courtesy of U.S. Africa Command

U.S. forces, seen here embarking a flying fortress in East Africa, killed three members of the al-Shabab extremist group in Jan. 1 airstrikes in Somalia. Photo courtesy of U.S. Africa Command

U.S. airstrikes in Somalia killed three members of the al-Shabab extremist group and destroyed six buildings in their compound, U.S. Africa Command announced.

The two airstrikes on Friday struck an al-Shabab position near the town of Qunyo Barrow, on Somalia's southern coast.

"Current assessments indicate the strikes killed three and wounded one al-Shabaab members and destroyed six and damaged one al-Shabaab compound buildings," AFRICOM said Saturday in a press release. "The command's initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this operation."

The extremist group has sought for years to overthrow Somalia's U.S.-backed government. U.S. forces undertook at least 50 airstrikes against the group in 2020.

The action was carried out as U.S. troops prepare to leave Somalia for nearby bases elsewhere in East Africa.

The pullout of about 800 troops was ordered in December by President Donald Trump, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

A U.S. Navy strike force, led by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, briefly pulled into position near Somalia last week to protect the troop withdrawal.

"This action clearly demonstrates our continuing commitment to Somalia and our regional partners," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joel Tyler, AFRICOM director of operations.

"We retain the means and the will to strike the al-Shabab terrorist network when necessary to protect the region and ultimately, our own nation," Tyler said.

 

#Somalia, U.S. target #alShabaab compound --- "Our strikes help keep these terrorists off balance to help our partners then address deeper problems such as governance and development."

RELATED U.S. targets al-Shabab leaders with terrorist designations

 

-@usairforce Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, JTF-Quartz

Updated release: https://t.co/5FiuuBbT4o pic.twitter.com/aVBV7y2pFr— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) January 3, 2021

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/live-experience/cps/624/cpsprodpb/vivo/live/images/2021/1/2/0cb7fae7-ec07-42fb-9305-99d3d0ed8dc4.jpg

===

U.S. Air Force Tests Drone-Killing Microwave Weapon In Africa 

By Tyler Durden - 22. December 2020

The Air Force is testing a high-energy microwave weapon system in Africa to combat armed drones operated by terrorists. 

In April, we first reported the Air Force would test a new prototype drone-killing microwave weapon overseas for a 12-month assessment. At the time, there was no mention by the service of where the testing would be conducted until now. 

Richard Joseph, the Air Force's chief scientist, was recently quoted by Breaking Defense as saying the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder (THOR) is being tested in a "real-world setting" in Africa. 

"We have recently deployed a test system to Africa for base defense … based on a microwave system. And the purpose is to be able to disrupt and destroy the performance of drones or swarms of drones," Joseph recently told the Mitchell Institute.

"It's been tested extensively, works remarkably well. … I've watched it in action and it's really quite impressive."

Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder (THOR)

Given the proliferation of drones and drone swarms on the modern battlefield in Africa and the Middle East, he said THOR was the best system to defend high-value assets. 

"Drones are becoming more and more pervasive and can be used as weapons intended to cause harm to our military bases at long standoff ranges," the Air Force Research Laboratory directer energy chief Dr. Kelly Hammett said in April. 

Joseph said THOR was "better than anything else" the service has in its arsenal, and noted that "the capabilities that can be incorporated in the system are increasing day by day." 

... and the reason why the Air Force is testing microwave technology to combat drones on the modern battlefield is that drone swarms could one day be classified as a weapon of mass destruction because of their precision to annihilate high-value targets. 

READ ALSO:

 Children in Constant Fear of U.S. Killer Drones

===

US Warplanes Hit Somali Rebels Days After US Troop Withdrawal Announced

In this Dec. 8, 2008 file photo, armed al-Shabab fighters on pickup trucks prepare to travel into the city, just outside Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

In this Dec. 8, 2008 file photo, armed al-Shabab fighters on pickup trucks prepare to travel into the city, just outside Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

By Richard Sisk - 10. December 2020

U.S. aircraft carried out two strikes Thursday against a stronghold of al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab rebels in Somalia, days after President Donald Trump ordered a withdrawal of the estimated 800 U.S. troops in the East African nation, according to U.S. Africa Command.

"We will continue to apply pressure to the al-Shabaab network" despite the drawdown, Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM's commander, said in a statement. "They continue to undermine Somali security and need to be contained and degraded."

The airstrikes targeted al-Shabaab explosives experts near the town of Jilib, about 207 miles southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Juba valley, AFRICOM officials said.

At a U.S. Naval Institute forum last week, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said that the Lower Juba valley remained an al-Shabaab stronghold despite years of U.S. airstrikes and efforts to train Somali security forces in fighting the rebels.

"[Al-Shabaab] remains a dangerous franchise of Al Qaeda," Townsend said in his statement. "We continue to monitor the threat and support our partners through training and military and diplomatic engagement."

Townsend added that the U.S. was relocating forces in the region, possibly to Kenya and Djibouti, "but we will maintain the ability to strike the enemy."

AFRICOM gave no indication of the type of aircraft used in the strikes, but officials said the initial damage assessment showed that the airstrikes "killed terrorists who were known to play important roles in producing explosives for [al-Shabaab], to include vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices."

AFRICOM officials said the VBIEDS, a main weapon for al-Shabaab, have been used an estimated 45 times in Mogadishu alone since 2018 and had killed more than 400 civilians, security forces and government officials.

Last Friday, the Defense Department confirmed that Trump had ordered the withdrawal of most troops from Somalia. The effort is in line with his mandate to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500, and from 3,000 to 2,500 in Iraq, by Jan. 15.

In a statement, DoD said "the majority" of troops in Somalia would be withdrawn, leaving the possibility that a small number would remain in Mogadishu for a continuing advise and assist mission DoD with Somali forces.

"While a change in force posture, this action is not a change in U.S. policy," DoD said. "We will continue to degrade violent extremist organizations that could threaten our homeland while ensuring we maintain our strategic advantage in great power competition."

China has established its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, a few miles from AFRICOM's main hub in East Africa, and Russia on Tuesday announced an agreement with Sudan to establish a naval base at Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at .

===

USA DRAGS KENYA DEEPER INTO REGIONAL WARFARE

(vf) The only thing the U.S. Americans could achieve with such is that the whole area of NE-Kenya and southern Somalia then would be paralized and further deprived of any meaningful development.

Thereby again it is only the civilian population that suffers and in turn such is actually then the cause of enhanced armed strife from all sides.

The once thriving tourism industry - especially at the famous Lamu world heritage site - was already severely damaged by the attack on the Manda Island base of the USA and now - after the COVID scare mongering - would never be able to get revived once the Kenya government allows itself to be dragged into these geo-strategic power-plays of the Americans.

So far the drone-terror was unleached on the Horn of Africa from the AFRICOM base of the U.S. Americans in Ethiopia, which faces now difficulties in this deeply troubled country. Does Kenya want to invite the same troubles to come to until now stable Kenya?

US military wants to carry out drone strikes in Kenya: report

By HILLARY ORINDE | 17. September 2020

https://cdn.standardmedia.co.ke/images/wednesday/jabojg218w43nefi05f621aebb2d2c.jpgPresident Uhuru Kenyatta when he met President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, August 27, 2018. [File, Standard] The United States military is seeking approval to launch covert drone strikes against terrorists from its base in Kenya, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

If granted, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) will target Al-Shabab insurgents in eastern Kenya, especially Garissa and Lamu counties, said the report quoting four senior but unnamed American officials.

The request for the new strike authorities follows the January 5 attack at Manda Bay, Lamu, when militants overran an airfield and killed three American commandos.

A drone offensive was approved during the brazen Manda attack, the Times reported, but was not used as the militants escaped by retreating to their Somalia territory.

Under the proposed deal, AFRICOM now hopes to get its guidelines in order should Al Shabab, an al-Qaida linked group, attacks again.

The drone warfare will not only be used in self-defence of American troops or collective self-defence of partnered Kenyan forces but also an offensive to neutralise potential threats.

The authority is subject to approval by the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and then President Donald Trump who is keen on relaxing limits on drone strikes and raids outside conventional battlefields.

Kenyan authorities will also have to green light flying attack drones in its territory. This is a deviation from countries like Somalia who have allowed the US to fly drones when they so choose.

AFRICOM declined to comment on the draft rules for potential airstrikes but told the Standard Digital that the United States and Kenya shared a commitment to regional security and stability.

The agency’s Director of Public Affairs Col. Chris Karns said Al Shabab was the "most capable" terrorist group on the African continent. 

"As such, there is a need to apply consistent international pressure on the terrorist organisation and to monitor their activity and presence. We will continue to actively place pressure on their network and work with partners to prevent their spread," he said.

"Kenya is a regional leader in the fight to defeat Al-Shabab and ISIS, and provides critical contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia," he added, and referred us to the Office of the Secretary of Defense - Public Affairs for additional information.

The new proposal comes in the wake of intensified commitment by both Kenya and the US to crash Al Shabab fighters have waged an insurgency for more than a decade.

President Uhuru Kenyatta met his American counterpart Donald Trump in August 2018 to forge partnerships including on security, especially the fight against terrorism.

Trump and Uhuru pledged to deepen security cooperation to enhance American support for the Kenya Defence Forces. At the time, the US had provided over Sh25 billion in boats, helicopters and aircraft as well as training and information to support the KDF.

Drone attacks, touted as the natural evolution in the science of war, seeks to provide low risk tactical engagements. They have, however, not been free of allegations of civilian casualties.

A human rights watch report said US drone strikes in Somalia in early 2020 killed seven civilians.

In one of the attacks on February 2, one woman was killed at her home, the lobby said. Five men and a child in a minibus were also killed in a March 10 attack.

AFRICOM in its quarterly report on civilian casualty assessments published on April 27, 2020 said it was carried out 91 airstrikes against violent extremist Organisations in Somalia and Libya between February 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

During the period, there were 70 allegations about 27 separate possible civilian casualty incidents with approximately 90 alleged civilian casualties, it said.

"As of March 31, 2020, 20 alleged incidents are closed, and seven incidents are still under review. One of the 20 closed allegations that stemmed from this period has been substantiated by the command," reads the report seen by Standard Digital.

While AFRICOM has admitted to four civilian deaths since 2007, Amnesty International says it has documented 21 civilian deaths in 9 strikes between October 2017 and February 2020.

AFRICOM has also been flying drones out of Niger since 2017 but has not reported any drone strike within the territory of the West African Country.

N.B.: Again the U.S. war propagnda machinery employs alleged "foreign correspondents" as authors for newpaper articles to massage the Kenyan public and politicians in order to accept their war-games.

Here again the Standard newspaper:

US military seeks to expand anti-terror drone war to Kenya

By ERIC SCHMITT AND CHARLIE SAVAGE | 17. September 2020

The Manda Simba camp, a US military base housing American and Kenyan soldiers, following an ambush by Al Shabaab in January. [File, Standard]

The US military’s Africa Command is pressing for new authority to carry out armed drone strikes targeting Al Shabaab fighters in portions of Kenya, potentially expanding the war zone across the border from their sanctuaries in Somalia.

The new authorities, which must still be approved by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and President Donald Trump, do not necessarily mean the US will start carrying out drone attacks in Kenya.

The new plans prompted mixed reactions online. The push for the expanded authorities traces back an attack by the militants in January on a military base in Lamu that housed US troops, the newspaper said quoting officials.

Hit team

The attack on the airfield at Manda Bay killed three Americans and caused millions of dollars in damage.

US commanders immediately tracked and killed the Al Shabaab hit team that had infiltrated the base from Somalia, securing permission to carry out a drone strike on them in Kenyan territory, according to the officials.

But they never attacked because the militants — retreating to Somali territory — eluded them.

Officials recognised that they lacked guidelines to conduct drone strikes in Kenya should Al Shabaab attack there again. The Pentagon led an inter-agency push to write rules for any future strikes in Kenya under more relaxed limits on drone strikes that Trump’s national security team created in 2017, replacing more stringent procedures from the Obama era.

Col Christopher P Karns, the command’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on the new authorities. “Africom certainly recognises the need to apply consistent international pressure on Al Shabaab and to monitor their activity, presence, and actively confront them in order to prevent their spread,” he said in an email. “This can take several forms.”

Lt Col Anton T Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman, added in an email: “The US military will defend US personnel, citizens and homeland as necessary anywhere in the world.”

He also did not address the new guidelines.

But according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the draft guidelines would theoretically authorise not only drone strikes in self-defense of American troops or collective self-defense of partnered Kenyan forces, but also offensive strikes intended to pre-empt a suspected threat — like if officials uncovered intelligence about preparations at a compound to assemble a car bomb.

Several officials noted, however, that Kenya has a stable government and capable security forces. As a result, the officials did not expect the authorities to prompt the US to carry out frequent drone strikes there, if any. Still, they said they could envision a situation in which a drone would be the only realistic option to try to pre-empt a terrorist operation.

The draft plan was said to contain limitations. Among them, the military would be permitted to conduct strikes only in a portion of Kenya, two officials said. One specifically identified the potential strike zone as Garissa and Lamu counties, which encompass the air strip camp at Manda Bay and the nearby border region with Somalia.

Moreover, the Kenyan government would have to consent to any strike — a major difference from Somalia, whose provisional government has essentially given the US blanket permission to carry out strikes when it sees fit. The American military would also have to consult with the US ambassador in Kenya.

In addition to the military’s desire for expanded authorities, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked Trump during a White House visit in February for additional counter-terrorism assistance, including “armed aerial support” to help combat the Al Shabaab, a senior American official said.

New threats

Esper, who has been weighing cuts to American troops on the continent as part of a global reshuffling of forces to address new threats from China and Russia, initially expressed reluctance to approve the new authorities, officials said.

But he relented to the narrowly focused guidelines rather than be seen as rejecting an important force-protection measure favored by his field commanders, officials said.

Several ominous signs indicate that the militant group is seeking to expand its lethal mayhem well beyond its home base and attack Americans wherever it can — threats that prompted a flurry of American drone strikes in Somalia this year to try to snuff out the plotters.

In recent years, Al Shabaab, which American intelligence analysts estimate has 5,000 to 10,000 fighters, has lost many of the cities and villages they once controlled.

Despite facing a record number of American drone strikes, the group has morphed into a more nimble and lethal outfit, carrying out large-scale attacks against civilian and military targets across Somalia and neighbouring countries.

Somali forces work alongside troops from the African Union peacekeeping operations, which include forces from Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia. Kenya, in particular, has been a frequent target of Al Shabaab retaliatory attacks.

The attack in January on the base near the Somali border, took American and Kenyan troops by surprise. Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen Shabaab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hours-long gunfight. [Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati]

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U.S. military airstrike in Somalia kills Al-Shabaab militant

By David Ochieng Mbewa - 27. August 2020

A military drone. (Getty Images)

A member of the Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab was killed in an airstrike by the United States military, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

AFRICOM said that the airstrike took place in the vicinity of Saakow in Somalia’s Middle Juba region on Tuesday.

The airstrike was targeting an unidentified Al-Shabaab senior leader, according to AFRICOM.

“Working with our Somali partners, we continue to weaken and degrade the al-Shabaab network. Our efforts are increasing security and helping to disrupt al-Shabaab’s future plans and ambitions,” AFRICOM deputy director for operations U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering said.

AFRICOM said that a preliminary assessment indicated that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of the airstrike.

“Together with partner and international forces, U.S. Africa Command activities are designed to improve security conditions and prevent al-Shabaab’s desire to expand their reach,” AFRICOM’s statement read in part.

Al-Shabaab has waged a war against Somalia’s central government for several years in a bid to oust it and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

The war has killed thousands of people and forced millions of others to flee their homes.

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Private U.S. Contractors Part of the ‘Kill Chain’ in East Africa “Anti-Terrorist Operations”

By Kira Zalan and Emmanuel Freudenthal - 14. August 2020

It was early on a Sunday morning when Al-Shabab militants attacked the small airstrip next to a military base on Kenya’s north coast. Plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky as the militants destroyed six aircraft and killed three Americans, including two civilian contractors and one U.S. soldier.

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Satellite image of the runway at Camp Simba in Manda Bay in February 2018.

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Satellite images of the runway at Camp Simba in Manda Bay in April 2019.

In the wake of the January 5 attack, Fahim Twaha, the governor of Lamu County where Camp Simba is located, described the incident as “a foreign force attacking a foreign force on our soil.”

The U.S. military had been using the base, nestled in the normally sleepy Manda Bay, for East African operations for over a decade. The American presence, as well as the base, has expanded over the years, including the recent addition of new aircraft hangars, likely to protect sensitive technology installed on surveillance aircraft. In 2019, the U.S. mission at Camp Simba officially changed from “tactical” to “enduring operations.”

Now an investigation by OCCRP reveals that the U.S. military has been using the Kenyan base as a launchpad for surveillance aircraft supporting airstrikes in neighboring Somalia, with civilian contractors playing a pivotal role by providing intelligence on targets.

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A U.S. surveillance plane that supports airstrikes in Somalia. Credit: Lee Barton

Flight data indicates a contractor-owned plane that was seen regularly in Manda Bay scouted sites for several drone strikes against Islamist militant group Al-Shabab that may have killed civilians in Somalia. Data collected by an antenna installed by OCCRP confirmed multiple privately owned surveillance planes operated from the base, often hidden behind a chain of limited liability companies that do not list their true owners.

Sean McFate, a former private military contractor now working with the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, said that in the past companies were brought in to help analyze U.S. military data, but not collect it.

“The ethical standard of who can pull the trigger has been slowly eroding over the last 30 years,” he said, explaining that even if private contractors are not involved in combat, they become “part of the kill chain” by providing intelligence for airstrikes.

“If they’re doing lethal operations, then I think we’ve crossed a threshold,” McFate said.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the use of contractor pilots for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions is legal under domestic and international law. The public affairs office declined to confirm details or comment on specific aircraft and companies identified by OCCRP, citing operational security.

Pulling the Trigger

The U.S. military has confirmed to OCCRP that civilian contractors are also operating armed drones in East Africa.

“Contractors may operate an armed drone but they cannot make the decision to deploy the weapon system,” a public affairs officer for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in an emailed statement, citing U.S. regulations and policy.

“At their core, decisions to fire on the enemy may only be made by lawful combatants under the law of armed conflict. Our uniform-wearing service members are lawful combatants; our contractor teammates are not. So, we do not allow our contractor teammates to assume a role that would be unlawful under international law. Decisions that require the exercise of substantial discretion or value judgments when applying DoD [Department of Defense] authority, such as the employment of kinetic effects or the decision to target a particular military objective, cannot be made by a contractor.

For example, Contractor personnel may make technical decisions related to collection and operation of an armed drone, such as routing the collection asset. However, decisions requiring an exercise of substantial discretion or value judgements when applying DoD authority, such as the employment of kinetic effects or the decision to target a particular military objective, must be taken by a military member.”

The U.S. military ramped up airstrikes in Somalia following the attack at Manda Bay, carrying out 42 by mid-2020, compared to 63 recorded in all of 2019.

U.S. surveillance drone. Stock-photo U.S. Navy

‘Constant Fear’

Last year, Asha Hassan, a mother of seven, left her home in Lower Shabelle, the region in Somalia most targeted by U.S. airstrikes. She and her children are among 1,300 families that have settled in the makeshift Alla Futo camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Another 36,000 people fled the region in the first three months of 2020, nearly all because of the conflict, according to the UN’s refugee agency.

“We fled from the planes that were hovering over us every night. These planes can drop things any time,” Hassan said. “We could not live there. We fled due to those problems and the constant fear.”

The U.S. first launched airstrikes against Al-Shabab in Somalia in 2007 and increased them significantly in 2016, according to data collected and analyzed by U.K.-based non-profit Airwars. They have ramped up again substantially since U.S. President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement three years ago.

Thousands of people have been killed by U.S. airstrikes in Somalia since 2007, including as many as 145 civilians, according to Airwars. The U.S. military only acknowledges five accidental civilian deaths since 2017. It’s unclear if there was a review of alleged civilian deaths over the previous decade.

Alla Futo camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Credit: Mohamed Ibrahim Bulbul.

OCCRP’s investigation indicates that at least some of those drone strikes were based on intelligence gathered by private U.S. contractors operating out of Manda Bay.

OCCRP used flight tracking data and matched it to geo-coded airstrike data from Airwars, which also collects information on civilian casualties from official military statements, as well as media reports, NGOs and social media. The group cross-references claims of civilian casualties to try to confirm them, but notes that “we are often unable to follow up or to further verify such claims.”

On February 1 and 5, 2019, a contractor-owned Gulfstream jet flew repeatedly over a small area in Lower Shabelle, about 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. It returned to the area on March 9. The plane had a particular flight pattern — near-perfect circles — and was likely collecting data with its specialized sensors, according to experts on the subject.

On February 6 and 11, and again on March 11, U.S. airstrikes hit areas the plane apparently surveyed. AFRICOM said 11 militants were killed in the first strike near the ancient seaside town of Gandarshe, which was directly below the Gulfstream’s flightpath.

Two more strikes were launched on Feb. 11 near Janaale, about 20 kilometers from the first drone attacks, again right under the Gulfstream’s flightpath. The U.S. military claimed that 12 militants were killed and no civilians — although reports collected by Airwars claim 13 civilians had died.

On March 9, the Gulfstream flew over a spot just kilometers northwest of Tuwaareey, which was hit by an air strike two days later. AFRICOM said eight militants were killed and that Al-Shabab was using the area to “direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.” Information collected by Airwars, however, concluded that between one and seven civilians may have died.

A report released by AFRICOM this spring confirmed two civilian deaths in a separate strike that took place on February 23, 2019.

Visual of 2019 surveillance flights and airstrikes described in the story. Credit: Edin Pasovic

The Gulfstream aircraft that appears to have collected surveillance for these attacks was spotted near Manda Bay on several occasions. It’s registered to a company called AC-1425 LLC, a nod to the plane’s serial number. According to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration filings, it also belongs to Priority 1 Holdings LLC.

Incorporated in Delaware in 2017, Priority 1 has intimate links to the U.S. security establishment. Its former CEO, Andrew Palowitch, held two official postings at the Central Intelligence Agency and was director of the Space Protection Program, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. He also held executive positions at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), one of the most profitable contractors in the U.S. defense industry, and Tenax Aerospace Holdings, an intelligence and defense contractor that boasts a former CIA Director and a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command as board members.

Priority 1’s website says the company’s aviation operations are conducted through its subsidiary, AIRtec Inc., an “airborne services company” that had over US$10 million in government contracts in the past year. AIRtec lists the same model Gulfstream aircraft that may have gathered intelligence for the U.S. airstrikes in its fleet.

It’s unclear which U.S. government agency contracted Priority 1 or AIRtec for work in East Africa, or whether the aircraft was leased to another contractor.

When registering the plane, the company listed its address at a renovated $640,000 Florida condo with coastal views and quartz waterfall counters, and a phone number in Ireland.

The company bought the Gulfstream aircraft in 2018, and AIRtec promptly modified it to perform specialized missions, equipping the plane with camera and communications equipment suitable for military surveillance. They included a radar system that “can peer through foliage, rain, darkness, dust storms or atmospheric haze to provide real time, high quality tactical ground imagery, anytime it is needed, day or night,” according to a brochure from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Palowitch and Priority 1 declined to respond to detailed questions for this article, including whether the aircraft has conducted target surveillance over Somalia. Greg Kahn, general counsel for Priority 1, said the “questions are not appropriate for our company to be discussing.”

“This subject matter, as I am sure you are aware, is highly confidential,” Kahn said in an email.

OCCRP obtained a photo from the cockpit of a surveillance plane operated by contractors based at Manda Bay, then used Google Earth satellite imagery to identify the aircraft’s location on the Somali coast. Credit: Samir. [N.B.(ECOTERRA: That targeted area is actually inside the Bush-Bush National and Marine Park - an internationally recognized and protected area. - for further info and contact on the areas of protected nature in Somalia write to ]

The Big Safari

Some of the companies operating in Manda Bay are contracted under the auspices of the secretive U.S. Air Force program named Big Safari, which was started to fast-track Cold War surveillance technology in 1952.

Critics say Big Safari’s opaque contracting process, which has awarded almost $158 billion to private companies since 2008, is vulnerable to corruption as it bypasses normal procurement procedures. They say contracts have been awarded to companies run by well-connected executives, including former military and intelligence officials, rather than dispensed through a competitive bidding process.

“The Air Force remains satisfied that the acquisition practices utilized by Big Safari are in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Department of Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement, applicable Department of Defense Instructions, and Air Force guidance governing acquisition programs,” a public affairs officer said in an email.

One company that has faced accusations is L3Harris Technologies, which employed the two contractors killed in January and operated a surveillance plane that was destroyed in the attack. It is the top vendor of the Big Safari program, and government data shows that L3Harris won $4 billion in federal government contracts during the last U.S. federal fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2019.

L3Harris Instagram post, November 2019. Credit: Instagram

In 2017, before L3 merged with Harris Corporation, two Republican congressmen published an open letter alleging there was a “revolving door” of people moving between the military and L3. The representatives from North Carolina, Ted Budd and Walter Jones, said the company used “improper influence” over the contracting process to sell aircraft for use by the government of Yemen in the country’s ongoing civil war, with no competitive bidding process. They argued more cost-effective planes were available (including some made by a company in Budd’s district) and the Big Safari official in charge of steering the deal later resigned and went to work for L3. The Washington-based Project On Government Oversight notes in its Pentagon Revolving Door Database that L3 has hired several senior defense officials.

The company also made headlines that year, when prominent Kenyan anti-corruption advocate John Githongo and Congressman Budd called for an investigation into its role in a deal to sell armed surveillance aircraft to Kenya. They accused Kenyan officials of corruption, though a U.S. government investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of the Air Force program.

L3Harris continues to be a favored U.S. contractor. In a May 5 call with investors, executives said the firm had been buoyed by its close relationship with Big Safari at a time when many companies have been struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“One highlight was over $800 million in award activity from our leading position on the Big Safari programs,” said COO Chris Kubasik.

No one on the call mentioned L3Harris contractor Bruce Triplett, 64, or pilot Duston Harrisson, 47, who were killed during the attack in Manda Bay, when militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the plane they were taxiing along the air strip. Another contractor was badly injured but crawled to safety, the New York Times reported, while Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, was also killed.

Battleground Kenya

U.S. security services started to focus on Kenya following the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy by Al Qaeda in Nairobi that killed 213 people. It was around this time that early iterations of Al-Shabab were developing north of the border, in Somalia, where the group still aims to establish an independent Islamic state.

At the peak of its powers, from around 2007 to 2011, Al-Shabab controlled large parts of Somalia, including much of the capital, Mogadishu. It has targeted Kenya in major attacks since 2013, a self-proclaimed retaliation for the Kenyan military’s entrance into Somalia two years earlier to defeat the extremist group. Since then, hundreds of Kenyan civilians have been killed and injured in large-scale terrorist attacks attributed to Al-Shabab in Nairobi, Lamu, and Garissa counties.

Most U.S. operations against militant groups in Somalia are carried out from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the largest permanent U.S. military base in Africa. The tiny base in Kenya’s Manda Bay, where the January attack took place, didn’t even make the Pentagon’s official base lists. Government tenders seeking contractors sometimes mention the location as an offshoot of Camp Lemonnier. According to public statements, there were fewer than 150 U.S. military personnel before the January attack; between 50 and 100 U.S. troops were deployed to the base immediately after.

Kenya is not just a passive host to American military operations. It has received more money, training and equipment from Washington than any country in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also one of the world’s top five recipients of U.S. counterterrorism aid.

Stephen Townsend, head of AFRICOM, told the U.S. Senate that Triplett and Harrisson “died while protecting the American people from the very real threat of Al Qaeda and Al-Shabab terrorist groups.”

But McFate noted the difference in response to the attack and the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia, when the deaths of 19 American soldiers prompted the U.S. to withdraw from the country.

“Americans do not care about dead contractors,” McFate said. “They care about dead soldiers, like Black Hawk Down, but nobody cares at all about a dead contractor.”

Another Big Safari contractor that had a prominent presence at the base in Manda Bay is AEVEX Aerospace, a company that operates contractor-owned planes in Africa for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

Formed in 2018 from three smaller defense companies and led by a former U.S. Special Operations Command officer, the firm won federal contracts worth $44 million in 2019. It also recently landed a classified contract to provide civilian pilots for operations in West Africa, according to the Paris-based news site Africa Intelligence. The pilots will operate MQ-9 Reaper drones and other intelligence-gathering aircraft.

Credit: Instagram AEVEX Instagram post, February 2019.

AEVEX has advertised positions that would “interface with intelligence and operations elements” in Africa and operate surveillance equipment. In one ad, the company said its analysts are expected to build “patterns of life” and target descriptions, as well as conduct battle damage assessment.

At least two aircraft owned by subsidiary limited liability companies, but ultimately traced to AEVEX, have been spotted in Manda Bay. One is a helicopter with specialised equipment; the other is a Pilatus plane that had medical beds installed and the flight data recorder removed in 2018. The Pilatus has made multiple trips over Somalia, flight data shows.

L3Harris and AEVEX did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

‘Addicted to Contractors’

The situation at Camp Simba in Manda Bay is a microcosm of conflicts around the world in which the U.S. has come to increasingly rely on contracting military and intelligence operations to private companies.

Experts say a lack of publicly available information makes it hard to count the number of contractors involved in military operations, but their roles have dramatically increased since the 1990s when such duties fell almost exclusively to military personnel.

“The U.S. government has become addicted to contractors, whether they are Republicans or Democrats in the White House, because contractors give you some degree of plausible deniability,” said McFate.

The military says contractors allow for greater flexibility. “Resource constraints, unique requirements, and military manpower caps are just some of the reasons that make it necessary to augment military forces via contract or federal hiring action in order to accomplish the mission,” an AFRICOM public affairs officer said in an emailed statement.

Last year, the Pentagon spent $370 billion — more than half the U.S. defense budget — on contractors, according to a study by Brown and Boston universities. The researchers concluded “military contracting is at least as expensive, and often more expensive” for the government. McFate even suggests that because profit is an incentive for private companies, the practice may prolong wars.

Analysts question whether the money pumped into America’s war in Somalia has improved, or worsened, security in the country.

Following the Manda Bay attack, Air Force Col. Christopher Karns said that airstrikes “don’t provide a long-term solution to the terror problem,” but they “create organizational confusion in the ranks of Al-Shabab and an effective punch.”

Hussein Sheikh Ali, chairman of Mogadishu-based think tank Hiraal Institute and a former national security adviser to the current Somali president, warned the drone attacks could be backfiring.

Rather than weakening Al-Shabab, he said, the tactic strengthens the militant group, as drone strikes alienate civilians by destroying property, lives, and livelihoods. The drone war also allows Al-Shabab to frame the conflict as a struggle against an invading foreign power.

“After Manda Bay, it’s looking like a conflict between Al-Shabab and America — and that’s actually what Al-Shabab wants,” Ali said. “Al-Shabab wants to be seen that they are fighting a global superpower.”

AFRICOM acknowledges that the airstrikes may be used against U.S. interests, but dismisses the concern.

“Al-Shabab has repeatedly shown that they are willing to lie and use false propaganda to further their goals in Somalia, regardless of what the U.S. does,” a public affairs officer said in an emailed statement.

“When assessing Somalia, it is important to understand incremental progress has been made over the last decade as the result of a truly international effort inside the country,” they added.

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An MQ-9 Reaper drone in Kuwait in 2019. Credit: U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Mason

‘Addicted to Contractors’

The situation at Camp Simba in Manda Bay is a microcosm of conflicts around the world in which the U.S. has come to increasingly rely on contracting military and intelligence operations to private companies.

Experts say a lack of publicly available information makes it hard to count the number of contractors involved in military operations, but their roles have dramatically increased since the 1990s when such duties fell almost exclusively to military personnel.

“The U.S. government has become addicted to contractors, whether they are Republicans or Democrats in the White House, because contractors give you some degree of plausible deniability,” said McFate.

The military says contractors allow for greater flexibility. “Resource constraints, unique requirements, and military manpower caps are just some of the reasons that make it necessary to augment military forces via contract or federal hiring action in order to accomplish the mission,” an AFRICOM public affairs officer said in an emailed statement.

Last year, the Pentagon spent $370 billion — more than half the U.S. defense budget — on contractors, according to a study by Brown and Boston universities. The researchers concluded “military contracting is at least as expensive, and often more expensive” for the government. McFate even suggests that because profit is an incentive for private companies, the practice may prolong wars.

Analysts question whether the money pumped into America’s war in Somalia has improved, or worsened, security in the country.

Following the Manda Bay attack, Air Force Col. Christopher Karns said that airstrikes “don’t provide a long-term solution to the terror problem,” but they “create organizational confusion in the ranks of Al-Shabab and an effective punch.”

Hussein Sheikh Ali, chairman of Mogadishu-based think tank Hiraal Institute and a former national security adviser to the current Somali president, warned the drone attacks could be backfiring.

Rather than weakening Al-Shabab, he said, the tactic strengthens the militant group, as drone strikes alienate civilians by destroying property, lives, and livelihoods. The drone war also allows Al-Shabab to frame the conflict as a struggle against an invading foreign power.

“After Manda Bay, it’s looking like a conflict between Al-Shabab and America — and that’s actually what Al-Shabab wants,” Ali said. “Al-Shabab wants to be seen that they are fighting a global superpower.”

AFRICOM acknowledges that the airstrikes may be used against U.S. interests, but dismisses the concern.

“Al-Shabab has repeatedly shown that they are willing to lie and use false propaganda to further their goals in Somalia, regardless of what the U.S. does,” a public affairs officer said in an emailed statement.

“When assessing Somalia, it is important to understand incremental progress has been made over the last decade as the result of a truly international effort inside the country,” they added.

Global Investors

For the past decade, private equity firms have fed the U.S. military’s increasing appetite for private contractors to provide intelligence, surveillance, and combat support.

Demand “has kind of gone off the charts,” Ryan Murphy, founder of advisory firm KAL Capital, told a drone industry publication in 2019. KAL Capital advised on the recent sale of AEVEX between two private equity firms, Trive Capital and Madison Dearborn Partners.

Madison’s investors include eight pension funds — one being the public Teachers Retirement System of Texas — and four foundations, including the University of Iowa’s endowment fund.

Priority 1 Holdings LLC is owned by Douglas Brennan, who also owns investment firm Stellwagen Group, which manages over $1.1 billion in aviation assets through private equity pools.

L3Harris has three controlling shareholders, including BlackRock, the largest asset management firm in the world, which services pensions, endowments, and foundations; the second biggest investment management company, Vanguard Group, which boasts $6.2 trillion in managed assets and over 30 million investors worldwide; and T. Rowe Price Group, a large asset management firm specializing in retirement plans and other investment vehicles.

Directly or indirectly, millions of people around the globe are invested in, and profiting from, private U.S. military contractors.

Authors:

Margot Williams, Carolyn Thompson, Katarina Sabados, Maria Gargiulo, Abdalle Mumin, Will Swanson, Mohamed Ibrahim Bulbul, Carlo Muñoz, Jared Ferrie, Juliet Atellah, and others who wish to remain anonymous contributed reporting. This story was produced with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors. The original source of this article is OCCRP - Copyright © Kira Zalan and Emmanuel Freudenthal, OCCRP, 2020