Déjà vu Somalia

Dedicated to the memory of Brett Fredericks. Thank you for your service.

On October 3rd and 4th, 1993, two years after the Cold War was declared ‘over’, the U.S.somalia military was in Somalia and they were still fighting. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush deployed 28,000 U.S. troops to Somalia to protect food and medical supply lines to the millions of starving people who suffered at the whims of a gaggle of warlords. The newly-elected Clinton considered the mission important, so the military, including the Delta Force, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), were in Somalia executing the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.

This was the setup for Black Hawk Down the First Battle of Mogadishu, which was part of Gothic Serpent, an operation to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, perhaps the vilest of the Somali warlords and self-appointed president of Somalia. Of the eighteen Americans who died on October 3rd and 4th, 1993, five were Delta Force. Seeing an American soldier’s body dragged through the street enraged an American public. Instead of turning the furies of hell loose to smash the evil, the U.S. withdrew its troops in March 1994. But, why was the U.S. really there in the first place? Did George H.W. Bush, President and former CIA Director, really care about suffering Africans?

Running from the problem didn’t solve it. Twenty-two years later the warlords still battle it out in Mogadishu. In December retired Delta Force member, Brett Fredricks, was murdered there by Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab rebels. The questions are what is the current political situation, what or who is Al-Shabaab, and why did former Delta Force member Brett Fredericks die on Somali soil?

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was sworn in as its eighth president in 2012. Mohamud made Time magazine’s 2013 annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for touting national reconciliation, anti-corruption measures, and socio-economic and security sector reforms in Somalia. Mohamud is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood with whom he has partnered to build Muslim schools and medical facilities. Sounds reasonable.

On the down side, there are rumors that Mohamud is employing the old warlords, some of whom are aligned with Al-Shabaab to maintain his control. While I cannot find any direct evidence that this is true, it makes sense given the recent uptick in high profile Shabaab attacks. More directly, Aljazeera’s Malkhadir M. Muhumed reported on September 8, 2014 that “A confidential UN report alleges that Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, his former foreign minister and an American law firm conspired to steal public funds by engaging in secret contracts that gave them hefty percentages from the country’s recovered overseas assets….” The take-away is that life in Somalia seems to have improved for some, but is still a very dangerous place.

Al-Shabaab, ‘The Youngsters’, is an interesting mix for a terrorist organization.

The 'Youngsters' of Al-Shabaab

The ‘Youngsters’ of Al-Shabaab

According to the National Counterterrorism Center, “The Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin—commonly known as al-Shabaab—was the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts that took over most of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. Despite the group’s defeat by Somali and Ethiopian forces in 2007, al-Shabaab—a clan-based insurgent and terrorist group—has continued its violent insurgency in southern and central Somalia. The group has exerted temporary and, at times, sustained control over strategic locations in those areas by recruiting, sometimes forcibly, regional sub-clans and their militias, using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the Somali Federal Government (SFG), African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, and nongovernmental aid organizations….As evidenced by the increasing levels of infighting among leadership, al-Shabaab is not centralized or monolithic in its agenda or goals. Its rank-and-file members come from disparate clans, and the group is susceptible to clan politics, internal divisions, and shifting alliances. Most of its fighters are predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the SFG and not supportive of global jihad. Al-Shabaab’s senior leadership is affiliated with al-Qa‘ida and are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan. The merger of the two groups was publicly announced in February 2012 by the amir of al-Shabaab and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qa‘ida….” Iran provides direct support with funding and fighters.

Several experts hypothesize that Shabaab is losing influence in Somalia, but the recent dramatic increase in Shabaab violence against well defended, high profile targets indicates that the reports of this extremist group’s demise is premature. On Thursday, January 22, 2015, the wires lit up signaling that Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebaab rebels set off a car bomb at the Hotel SYL in Mogadishu.  The rebels convinced some poor schmuck to drive a car loaded with explosives full-throttle at the gate of the hotel. At least five people were killed in this attack, which came on the eve of a visit to the Somali capital by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  Erdoğan’s trip to Somalia was delayed until Sunday so that he could attend Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s funeral.

Brett Fredericks at work in Somalia. (Photo courtesy of Bancroft Global Development)

Brett Fredericks at work in Somalia. (Photo courtesy of Bancroft Global Development)

While Thursday’s attack was significant, the 2014 Christmas Day attack that killed former Delta Force operative Brett Fredericks at the heavily fortified AMISOM Halane base camp located close to Mogadishu’s airport.  Fredericks was a good guy by all accounts and among a cadre of mentors employed by the non-profit, Bancroft Global Development.  Foreign Policy Magazine’s Seán D. Naylor, a senior staff writer for intelligence and counterterrorism, in his article Profit and Loss in Somalia, describes Fredericks last moments.

“It was lunchtime on Christmas Day in Mogadishu, and Brett Fredricks was doing what he loved. The retired member of the Army’s famed and secretive Delta Force was huddling with Ugandan soldiers planning an assault on an enemy position during a firefight with al-Shabab guerrillas. But this gunbattle was different. It was taking place inside the international force’s heavily secured base at Mogadishu airport. It would also be one of the final moments of Brett Fredricks’s life.

At least eight al-Shabab fighters, some dressed in Somali national army uniforms, had infiltrated the base, then made their way to arms caches apparently stashed by Somali workers who had easy access to the complex. Now they were on the attack. When word reached Fredricks, he was across town at another Ugandan base, combining a work meeting with a Christmas celebration.

Together with a small group of Ugandans, including some senior officers,

A picture taken on December 25, 2014 shows the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) headquarters, located within the high-security compound of Mogadishu airport (AFP Photo/Mohamed Abdiwahab)

A picture taken on December 25, 2014 shows the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) headquarters, located within the high-security compound of Mogadishu airport (AFP Photo/Mohamed Abdiwahab)

Fredricks, 55, raced back to the airfield. By the time they got there, the infiltrators appeared to be holed up in an old building being used as a kitchen. After gathering some reinforcements, Fredricks and about a dozen Ugandans made their way to what seemed to be a safe position near the kitchen building and discussed how best to attack it.

But two al-Shabab fighters had slipped unseen into a patch of heavy brush from where they could engage Fredricks and his protégés. One or both of them opened up on the small group, spraying them with bullets. One Ugandan soldier fell wounded, another dead. And an AK bullet hit Fredricks between the eyes, killing him instantly….”

Bancroft Global Development, Fredericks’s employer, is a non-profit organization founded in 1999 by Michael Stock. It describes itself as “…a multinational, not-for-profit nongovernment organization that implements stabilization initiatives in conflict zones. Through ground-up, citizen-focused education and mentoring, Bancroft Global Development creates conditions that allow individuals to transcend basic survival needs and participate in establishment of culturally appropriate civil order and rule of law….” Interesting wording. Fredericks was in Somalia providing Special Forces training to Somali security services.

Bancroft is doing very well.  Through the ‘for-profit’ arm of the business, Bancroft Global Investments, it is among the largest private land owners in Somalia.  The for-profit company employs an interesting business model. “Bancroft Global Investments is particularly experienced in managing capital risk where basic commercial law and judicial institutions are unsettled. Current investments focus on fundamental infrastructure, which in conflict zones often means leap-frogging older technologies or business models, moving directly to twenty-first century innovations. Common themes among investments include real property development coupled with hydroelectric and solar power, wireless telecommunications, virtual banking, and modern freight transport.”

Why has Somalia worth dying for through the decades?  A measure of the reason must lie with the terrible suffering of the people of Somalia at the hands of vicious warlords and Islamic extremist terrorist groups.  And a portion of the allure for President George H.W. Bush and every president since then may also be the mineral wealth that lies beneath Somali soils and its proximity to the trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula. This is certainly why Iran supports Shabaab. China, who has staked a major claim on potential Somali oil resources, also makes no excuses about why it is in Somalia.

Way back in the late 1960s UN geologists made the largest find ever of uranium deposits and other rare earth mineral reserves in desperate demand for 21st Century technology in Somalia. Additionally there are untapped deposits of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt and natural gas. Bancroft Global Development is compensated through both the United Nations and the U.S. State Department for mentoring the government in modern military warfare for stabilization and the private side of Bancroft is busy buying up land.

7 thoughts on “Déjà vu Somalia

  1. Pingback: Political Jabberwocky - Caravan To Midnight

  2. Brett was truly a soldier’s soldier. Without his presence in Somalia doing what he did best, al-Shabaab would still be hiding in the shadows of Bakara Market, Mogadishu.
    R.I.P. Brett

  3. A little bit late here, I have tried to put the past behind me but thinking of Brett often. It’s a shame to have a Brother I looked to and now is gone, I can’t even give him a Phone call..Miss ya Bro…Miles

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