New American Ally in Somalia: `Butcher` Warlord
September 8, 2011
Sheikh Inda`Adde (R) who was a leader of the Islamic Courts in the past but now sides with the Somali government under the direction of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed speaks to journalists at Somalia`s Prime Ministers office on May 27, 2009. Inda`Adde said that Eritrea had supplied his men with weapons and money when he was part of the opposition.
If you thought it was bad that Washington is paying a shady French mercenary to do its dirty work in Somalia, you ain`t seen nothing yet. Just wait to you see our latest ally: an admirer of Osama bin Laden with a gory past.
Richard Rouget, a notorious gun-for-hire [Read below] who uses American funds to train African Union soldiers fighting in the ruins of Mogadishu, has been mentioned in connection with at least one murder. But U.S.-backed Somali government general Yusuf Mohamed Siad, a.k.a. “Indha Adde,” a.k.a, “The Butcher,” once ruled an entire region of Somalia with a bloody fist.
The U.S.-led international intervention in civil war-torn Somalia is unlike any of America`s other wars. Where the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are fought by tens of thousands of U.S. troops, in Somalia Washington pays others to do most of the fighting. These proxies include merc firms, regional bodies such as the A.U. and local allies including the nascent federal government.
That means less direct danger to American lives. But in another sense it means more danger. The more that the U.S. relies on proxy armies to do its fighting, the more it risks those proxies usurping American support and directing it towards their own dubious ends. That`s the subject of ace reporter Jeremy Scahill`s latest piece in The Nation and also of my own feature for The Diplomat.
“As one of the main warlords who divided and destroyed Somalia during the civil war that raged through the 1990s, he brutally took control of the Lower Shabelle region,” Scahill wrote about Siad. “There are allegations that he ran drug and weapons trafficking operations from the Merca port.” Siad also readily admits providing protection to al-Qaida operatives and speaks fondly of the late Osama bin Laden.
Mind you, this is one of the top generals in the army of one of our closest allies in Somalia.
For years, Siad resisted CIA efforts to lure him and his hundreds of militiamen to the American side. It took a lot of sweet-talking plus seismic shifts in Somali politics and U.S. strategy to draw in Siad. In 2008, Washington backed Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist and former ally of Siad`s, for Somali president. Just two years prior, Ahmed had been co-leader of the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamic group that birthed al-Shabab, pictured, a terrorist and insurgent group and today the main threat in Somalia.
Ahmed and Siad both changed sides as Al Shabab grew more extreme and foreign governments organized to destroy it. For the moment, the U.S. and its shady Somali allies share a common enemy. It`s not clear how long the alliance will last — or how strong it is even today. “Ahmed claims that Indha Adde [a.k.a., Siad] and other warlords have sworn allegiance to the government,” Scahill wrote, “but it is abundantly clear from traveling extensively through Mogadishu with Indha Adde that his men are loyal to him above all else.”
“The warlords being backed by you [America] have only a conflict of interest with the Shabab, not of ideology,” another former warlord told Scahill. “That`s why [arming and supporting them] is a dangerous game.”
With Al Shabab on the run following relentless international attacks from the ground, air and sea, Washington soon could find itself in an uneasy relationship with U.S.-armed Somalis who, just a few years ago, were its enemies — and who no longer have a greater enemy to focus on.
What happens after that is anybody`s guess.
U.S. Hires Shady Mercenary for Somali Proxy War
August 11, 2011
Richard Rouget, 44, a former French soldier and naturalized South African citizen (L) leaves the Pretoria Regional Court, 01 August 2003, accompanied by his lawyer Hilton West, where he pleaded guilty to charges of recruiting mercenaries to fight in Ivory Coast. (Photo credit should read ANNA ZIEMINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A French-born mercenary with a criminal record and possible ties to several African coups and at least one murder is the latest agent of the U.S. government`s out-sourced war in Somalia [Read below], according to The New York Times` ace Africa reporter Jeffrey Gettleman and others.
Richard Rouget, alias “Colonel Sanders,” works for Bancroft Global Development, a Washington, D.C.-based “private security company” that maintains an approximately 40-man team of self-described “mentors” in Mogadishu, Somalia`s embattled capital city.
Rouget and the other mentors — a mix of former French, Scandinavian and South African soldiers — help train the 9,000-strong, U.S.-funded Ugandan and Burundian peacekeeping force that doubles as the heavy army of the Somali Transitional Federal Government in its long war with the al-Shabab Islamic terror group.
Al-Shabab, the latest in a long chain of Somali insurgent groups, has allied itself with al-Qaida and last year pulled off a bloody twin bombing in Uganda. Al-Shabab actively recruits disaffected Somali-American teenagers to sneak into Somalia to fight. In 2008, one of these young recruits became the first known American-born suicide bomber when he blew himself up outside a Somali government building.
Uganda and Burundi have paid Bancroft $7 million since 2010 for counter-insurgency training, according to Gettleman and his co-writers. Washington refunds the two African countries for their training expenses. The D.C. company`s assistance has helped “turn a bush army into an urban fighting force,” one adviser told Gettleman — and is partly responsible for the transitional government`s big advances in Mogadishu and across Somalia in recent weeks. The Associated Press credits Rouget`s bomb disposal experts for the drastic reduction in African Union troops lost to roadside explosives.
But the battlefield success comes at the cost of American moral credibility. First, there were reports that the U.S.-backed transitional Somali government employs child soldiers as young as 12. And now America has endorsed, however indirectly, a man who for years has allegedly fought against stability, justice and self-governance in Africa.
The photos accompanying Gettleman`s piece depict the “husky,” 51-year-old Rouget accompanying Ugandan soldiers onto a Mogadishu rooftop to observe a gunfight between peacekeepers and al-Shabab troops. “Give me some `technicals` and some savages and I`m happy,” Rouget joked, using the slang term for pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns. The Associated Press calls Rouget “a cigar-smoking, poetry-quoting, whiskey-drinking former big game hunter” with “a long scar on his thigh from getting shot in Somalia last year.”
Rouget`s mercenary career began soon after he left the French army in the early 1980s. Around 1985, Rouget, then answering to his “Colonel Sanders” alias, reportedly joined the “presidential guard” of the Comoros, a tiny island-group nation in the Indian Ocean.
The presidential guard was, in fact, the personal army of Bob Denard, a notorious French mercenary and agent of French colonialism in Africa after World War II. (The Associated Press calls Rouget Denard`s former “right-hand man.”) The Comoros were Denard`s favorite target. In a 20-year period beginning in 1975, Denard backed no fewer than four coups in the Comoros, while also accumulating wives, properties and power on the islands.
From his Comoros base, in the 1980s Denard began working for the South African apartheid government in its campaign against Nelson Mandela`s African National Congress, which advocates for equal rights for blacks and whites. Denard and Rouget have both been mentioned in connection with the 1988 murders of ANC officials Godfrey Motsepe and Dulcie September — but never charged. In 1992, the Belgian government dropped its investigation of Motsepe`s murder, citing weak evidence.
After a stint organizing safaris, Rouget returned to the gun-for-hire business. In 2003, a South African court convicted him of illegally recruiting mercenaries to fight in the West African nation of Ivory Coast.
Oh, but Bancroft doesn`t employ mercenaries, company founder Michael Stock told The New York Times. “Mercenary activity is antithetical to the fundamental purposes for which Bancroft exists,” Stock said, adding that the company “does not engage in covert, clandestine or otherwise secret activities.”
But Rouget has engaged in covert, clandestine, secret (and possibly worse) activities. And now the U.S. government has indirectly put its stamp of approval on Rouget`s past, by paying countries to pay him to train their armies in pursuit of shared goals.
Make no mistake: Al Shabab is bad, bad, bad — and beating the terror group is a worthy goal that will benefit the whole world. But does this end justify hiring a shady soldier of fortune like Rouget?
CIA using secret Somalia facility, prison: report
July 12, 2011
Somali Islamist defence Chief Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed “Indha Adde” Siad (C), arrives for training on the outskirts of Mogadishu, December 11, 2008.
The US Central Intelligence Agency is using a secret facility in Somalia for counterterrorism purposes as well as a secret prison in the Somali capital, the magazine The Nation reported Tuesday.
The report said the CIA has “a sprawling walled compound” in a corner of the Mogadishu airport on the coast of the Indian Ocean that looks like a small gated community, with more than a dozen buildings behind large protective walls.
According to the magazine, the site is guarded by Somali soldiers, but the Americans control access.
A US official familiar with intelligence matters denied the report.
“The CIA does not run or maintain or have any prison detention facilities in Somalia,” nor does it “interrogate detainees there,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
She also said that only “in very rare instances” does the spy agency participate in debriefings led by Somali agents in the country.
The Nation said the effort is part of a focus on the Shebab, the Al Qaeda-linked group in the region blamed for a number of plots against the United States.
It said the CIA seeks to build “an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted `combat` operations” against the Shebab.
The report said the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia`s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shebab members or of having links to the group are held.
Some prisoners have been captured in Kenya or other locations, according to the magazine, which said the prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, but that US intelligence personnel pay the salaries and interrogate detainees.
The Nation reported that in an interview in Mogadishu, Somali minister of state for the presidency Abdulkadir Moallin Noor confirmed that US agents “are working with our intelligence” and “giving them training.”
With regard to US counterterrorism efforts, Noor said “we need more; otherwise, the terrorists will take over the country.”
The unnamed US official acknowledged the substantial counterterrorism challenge in the Horn of Africa nation, but stressed that “the CIA does not interrogate detainees there.”
“The US has a counterterrorism relationship with the Somali government, as the US has with a number of different countries,” she added.
US officials have voiced concern about deepening ties between the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Shebab, and that the Somali Islamist insurgency may broaden its focus to try to strike at Western targets outside of Somalia.
In April in the first known case of the secret detention of a terror suspect by President Barack Obama`s administration, Somali national Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was captured in the Gulf and kept at sea aboard a US Navy ship, where he was interrogated for two months.
Earlier this month the White House insisted Warsame`s detention was lawful, and he now faces terror charges in a New York court.
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