Is Washington Using Famine in the Horn of Africa to Embark on Yet Another Illegal War? by Finian Cunningham

by Finian Cunningham
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
East Africa
19 October 2011

US Drones Coordinate Air Power For Kenyan Ground Invasion of Somalia

The large troop deployment by Kenya into Somali territory is taking on the form of a full-scale invasion, rather than a temporary incursion as initially reported.

What is also emerging – but largely unreported – is that the US appears to be providing coordinated aerial firepower to help the advance of the Kenyan military against Al Shabab Islamic militants who have held power in the southern Somali territory.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, which was installed in 2009 with US support, has been battling against the militants for the past two years. Plagued by allegations of corruption and incompetence, the TFG has only managed to cling on to power in the capital, Mogadishu, thanks to diplomatic and military support from Washington and neighbouring US-allied countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya. Some 8,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi are stationed in Mogadishu to help stave off advances by Al Shabab from the southern hinterland where it holds sway.

Kenya’s surprise military intervention in its eastern Horn of Africa neighbour on Sunday came only two days after the US launched deadly aerial drone attacks in southern Somalia. According to Press TV, the worst fatalities were in the town of Qoqani, 80 kilometres from the border with Kenya. Some 78 people were killed in that attack and scores of others injured.

Qoqani was the first major urban centre commandeered by Kenyan troops – backed by heavy artillery, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets – within 48 hours of crossing the border on Sunday.

Now as Kenyan forces move towards the port city of Kismayu – some 200 kilometers from the Kenyan border and the strategic base for Al Shabab – US drones are targeting what appears to be the next military objective.

A US drone attack on Kismayu on Monday claimed the lives of some 27 people, including children, according to reports. There were also several reports of similar unmanned aerial vehicles crashing or being shot down near Kismayu, according to the BBC and Press TV. At the beginning of last month, a US drone attack reportedly killed 35 Al Shabab fighters in the port city.

In July, the Washington Post and New York Times, reported “the first US drone attack” on Somalia in which two Al Shabab commanders were targeted. The Obama administration has labeled Al Shabab a terrorist group and accuses the Islamists of having links to Al Qaeda. In recent weeks, there appears to be have been a stepped-up deployment of both spy and attack drones in Al Shabab strongholds.

In light of Kenya’s invasion of Somalia this week, it would now appear that US air power has played a key role in softening up combatant positions in advance of ground troops.

The Kenyan government – as with most media reports – claim that the intervention is aimed at hunting down kidnap gangs operated by Al Shabab which have been responsible for a spate of cross-border attacks on tourists and aid workers. A British and French woman were recently kidnapped in separate incidents in Kenyan coastal resorts. Reports are emerging that the French woman has since died while in captivity from lack of medical treatment. Then two Spanish aid workers were abducted from a refugee camp in Kenyan territory near the Somali border. Al Shabab sources have denied any involvement in attacks on foreign nationals, and the Islamist group says that the Kenyans are using the kidnap allegations as a pretext to invade a sovereign country. There are several disparate criminal groups operating in southern Somalia – pirates and bandits – that could have carried out the kidnappings.

However, the lack of proof implicating Al Shabab has not deterred the Kenyan government from stridently asserting blame.

That together with the large-scale military intervention by the Kenyan government, which has caused much concern among many of its own citizens over its legality, suggests that there is more going on than a cross-border swoop against criminal gangs. Also, the tacit approval by the Mogadishu government for the Kenyan invasion and the coordinated use of US drone attacks indicate a more far-reaching development.

The geostrategic importance of Somalia has long made it a prize for Washington. With its nearly 1,800-kilometre coastline overlooking the oil trading routes of the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the US has been vying for a foothold on the territory ever since its independence from Britain and Italy in 1960. Washington backed the dictatorship of Siad Barre until he was ousted in 1991 by rival warlords. This prompted the US to mount its “humanitarian” invasion in 1992 – Operation Restore Hope – which ended in disaster in 1994 following the shooting down of a Blackhawk helicopter and the death of 19 US personnel whose bodies were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in front of the world’s media by Somali militants.

Since then Washington has preferred to use proxy forces to project its interests in the notoriously unruly country. In 2006, President George Bush gave the greenlight for the invasion by Ethiopia to topple a nascent Islamic government – the Union of Islamic Courts – that had managed to bring a degree of stability to the country out of the warlord anarchy. The Transitional Federal Government was installed three years later, but it has never consolidated control of the country, with the Islamists running most of the southern territory – much to Washington’s dismay. Newly elected President Barack Obama has taken up the gauntlet with gusto. In September 2009, he ordered the assassination of senior Al Shabab commander Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan by helicopter-borne US Special Forces.

Somalia’s famine may now have opened up an opportunity for Washington to pursue its proxy war. Two years of drought and conflict have left some four million Somalis exposed to hunger – with 750,000 most acutely at risk, according to various humanitarian agencies. Most of the famine victims are located in Somalia’s southern region controlled by Al Shabab. Washington has pointedly refused to let food aid into the region, citing that the provisions would be misappropriated by the militants.

With rising hunger and incidence of diseases such as cholera, measles and typhoid, the military strength of Al Shabab has considerably weakened in recent weeks, according to the International Crisis Group.

This suggests that Washington has used the famine – the worst such famine seen in the Horn of Africa for 60 years – as a weapon to bring about its desired military objective: the crushing of a combatant force that is inconveniencing US geopolitical control of a strategically important country.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa correspondent and a Featured Writer on Dandelion Salad. He can be reached at


[DS added the video.]

Last week the White House announced that 100 American combat troops would be deployed to central Africa. Their mission would be training and advising forces that are in conflict with the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. Some think the US is only asking for trouble getting involved in the ethnic war that has been going on for decades. Pepe Escobar, a correspondent for Asia Times, helps us understand why now.

Pepe Escobar: America is getting involved in African civil war


The Son of Africa claims a continent’s crown jewels by John Pilger

Uganda: U.S., NATO Allies Prepare New Invasion Of Somalia by Rick Rozoff


7 thoughts on “Is Washington Using Famine in the Horn of Africa to Embark on Yet Another Illegal War? by Finian Cunningham

  1. Pingback: America’s Genocide in Africa: Celebs Provide Mood Music for Humanitarian Wars « Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: Baloney 2012: Imperialist Propaging Waves on YouTube by Sean Fenley + Kony? What about America’s war criminals? « Dandelion Salad

  3. Pingback: Horn of Africa: US Proxy War in Somalia Veers Towards Regional Conflict « Dandelion Salad

  4. Pingback: US Military Confirms Washington’s Secret New War in Somalia Despite Official Denials by Finian Cunningham « Dandelion Salad

  5. Pingback: Somalia: Western Media Indulge US and French Denials of New War in Famine-Hit Horn of Africa by Finian Cunningham « Dandelion Salad

  6. I cannot express the dismay I feel on reading about all this. I stand opposed to the U.S. carrying out such dismal and dark policies: drone attacks, assassinations, overthrowing governments, blocking food aid. What kind of monster has my country become? How many wars will people allow this travesty of a government in the U.S. to wage?

    What kind of people will manipulate a situation where people are starving to death for their own gain instead of helping out? What kind of people blithely ignore the murder of people in other countries in order to continue their own comfortable style of life?

    How can Americans accept this kind of foreign policy?

Comments are closed.