Robert Schlesinger: The Somalia CYA Campaign


Mark Mazzetti’s NY Times front-pager on the most recent U.S. failures in Somalia is worth reading on two levels.
First it’s an illustrative account of where we went wrong in allying ourselves with Somali warlords. (Is it ever a good idea to line up with someone who can be straight-facedly identified as a “warlord”?)
Also worth some careful reading is the subtext of the piece. To wit

A covert effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to finance Somali warlords has drawn sharp criticism from American government officials who say the campaign has thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize.

Seems plain enough.

The criticism was expressed privately by United States government officials with direct knowledge of the debate. And the comments flared even before the apparent victory this week by Islamist militias in the country dealt a sharp setback to American policy in the region and broke the warlords’ hold on the capital, Mogadishu.
The officials said the C.I.A. effort, run from the agency’s station in Nairobi, Kenya, had channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year to secular warlords inside Somalia with the aim, among other things, of capturing or killing a handful of suspected members of Al Qaeda believed to be hiding there.

If one wanted to use a Washington-to-English dictionary, one might read into this: This was the CIA’s fault. In Kenya. Which is thousands and thousands of miles away from the White House.
Mazzetti talked to CIA defenders as well of course.

The American activities in Somalia have been approved by top officials in Washington and were reaffirmed during a National Security Council meeting about Somalia in March, according to people familiar with the meeting. During the March meeting, at a time of fierce fighting in and around Mogadishu, a decision was made to make counterterrorism the top policy priority for Somalia.

Where does the buck stop? Oh yeah.
Robert Schlesinger, a Washington-based author writing a book on presidential speechwriters, regularly blogs on the Huffington Post.


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