Sunday, July 02, 2006

Misunderstanding Led To U.S. Aid To Somali Warlords

My June 8 piece The Law Of Unintended Consequences In Somalia discussed the backlash that was created in Somalia when the CIA backed a coalition of warlords against an Islamist faction. To make a long story short, the U.S. support for the warlords early this year rallied the population to the Islamist side. The capital of Somalia fell to the Islamists last month.

Today there is a report that details a misunderstanding that led to the influx of U.S. aid to the Somali warlords.

Visiting U.S. intelligence officers on the ground mistook a skirmish between two clans over a parcel of property near the Mogadishu airport for an attack upon the officers themselves, and responded by arranging weapons deliveries to the warlords.

(W)hen the gunfire rang out, the sources said, the U.S. officials wrongly concluded that they were under attack by Islamic terrorists and abruptly fled. It was a provocation, U.S. officials later told Somalis, that demanded a muscular response.

In the weeks that followed this little-known incident, which U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny, the United States expanded its role in Somalia to levels not seen since it abandoned the country in 1994. The Americans helped organize a group of secular warlords into an "anti-terror coalition" and provided them with a large, steady diet of cash.

The warlords, feared and hated by many Somalis, bragged about the money as they armed themselves as never before.

The infusion of cash upset a fragile balance between the two sides -- but not in the direction the Americans had hoped.

By March, the warlords were under siege. By June 6, they had fled. And by June 24, Hassan Dahir Aweys, a militant Islamic leader hostile to Western democracy and reputed to have ties to al-Qaeda, had taken control of Mogadishu. Late last week, Osama bin Laden boasted of successes there in an audiotape that singled out Somalia as a front in his war against Americans...

American analysts ... said that by giving cash to the warlords the United States triggered events that quickly moved beyond its control, producing a setback likely to hurt not only Somalis but also the U.S. war on terrorism.

"U.S. support for the warlords hit Mogadishu like a stick in the hornet's nest," said John Prendergast, an Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group, a research organization, speaking recently from Chad, where he was traveling. "It was totally the law of unintended consequences in the extreme."

You heard it here first, folks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's so interesting... and if it wasn't tragic -- it would actually be funny.

BTW - The Law of Unintended Consequences? What is that law? Is that like the Law of Cause and Effect? --Unintended consequences? It sounds like the kind of thing that happens to me all the time...


7/02/2006 6:28 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


It's kinda like Murphy's law.

Or better, like the Taoist principle that one can never really succeed at a complicated endeavor when one desires a positive result. There is a place beyond expectations of positive or negative outcomes from which the superior man or woman needs to operate.

7/03/2006 5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, Murphy's Law...

I like the Taoist suggestion to operate from a place beyond expectations of positive or negative outcomes... I think I'll meditate upon that idea this holiday weekend.

And Happy Fourth!


7/03/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...


I think I'll meditate upon that idea this holiday weekend.

Splendid idea. Meditation is really good for circulating the chi.

Thanks for the good wishes for the Fourth. Happy (belated) Canada Day to you!

7/03/2006 12:30 PM  

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