Thursday, October 10, 2013
As President Barack Obama expressed his commitment to target terrorist operatives abroad, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., questioned the "intelligence failure" he said occurred in the strike in Somalia last week.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Tuesday
questioned the effectiveness and legality of the U.S. commando strike
that failed to capture its target, an operative of the Al-Qaida
affiliate Al-Shabab, in Somalia last week.
During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he
grilled Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African
Affairs, about the reasons behind the failure to capture the Al-Shabab
leader, Ikrimah, sought for his association with planners of the 1998
U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya.
“Don’t be surprised…if there is skepticism here about the activities
that you engage in.” McCain said when she declined to respond.
“Fact is, it was a failure. Fact is, that there was an intelligence failure there, otherwise the mission would be completed.”
Dory said that taking direct action was one element of a multifaceted
approach to combating Al-Shabab and other terrorist activity in the
Al-Shabab members took responsibility for the Westgate mall attacks in Kenya that killed 67.
“Al Shabab must be stopped,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, assistant
secretary, Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department.
Since 2006, the U.S. has invested $700 million in the African Union
Mission in Somalia and the Somali National Army, and an additional $140
million to “stability democracy and economic growth,” said Sen.
Christopher Coons, D-Del., at the hearing.
Bronwyn Bruton, an African democracy expert with the Atlantic
Council, however, said that as long as civilian casualties are
minimized, targeted strikes in Somalia are an effective counterterrorism
“Keep it narrow and keep it clean,” Bruton said.
U.S.-Somali relations have been complicated since the early 1990s
when internal fighting broke out in the country. The U.S. has been
unofficially involved in military operations since then, said Dory.
Although, the U.S. doesn’t have a diplomatic mission in Somalia, it
formally recognized the country’s elected government in June.
She said U.S. policy in the region is aimed at improving Somalia’s
ability to counter terrorism and secure its borders and coastline while
reinforcing democratic values and respect for rule of law.
Bruton said that conflating those two objectives is counterproductive and expensive.
“The strategy is everything and the kitchen sink,” she said.
Because the Al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia are mostly foreign
nationals, eliminating them through targeted strikes would work better
than involving neighboring governments, Bruton said.
The Somalis perceive the involvement of neighboring countries like
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia as “meddling though their rivals,” she said,
putting the U.S. on one side of a very complicated regional conflict.
“You don’t have to be involved in playing police,” she said.