A controversial military unit is operating drone flights and other counterterrorism activities out of an airport in Kismayo, Somalia. Sources within the Somali government and African Union first confirmed the Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) activities to Foreign Policy.
JSOC was the subject of journalist Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars. The film outlines how the unit is involved in dangerous night raids in Afghanistan and other nations. Now the elite unit is being dragged into the middle of another scandal.
According to the sources there are as many as 40 U.S. military stationed in Kismayo. The drone flights flying out of Kismayo are said to be surveillance flights, as well as covert “intelligence” and “counterterrorism” operations. Foreign Policy also reports that “Unmanned armed and surveillance flights are said to originate from Camp Lemonnier in nearby Djibouti or from bases in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.”
Several officials within various governing bodies and institutions confirmed the allegations. According to Foreign Policy:
“Another regional official, Jubaland’s minister of planning, international cooperation, and humanitarian affairs, Mohamed Nur Iftin, also confirmed the existence of the U.S. outpost and the use of the runway for drones, as did a cabinet-level official in Mogadishu. Kenyan Brig. Gen. Daniel Bartonjo, the sector-level commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the multinational peace enforcement mission that has been battling al-Shabab since 2007, said that his troops have made gains against insurgents “with the help of the Americans who are here.” He made this comment in a June 19 briefing in Kismayo for Nicholas Kay, the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Somalia, attended by this reporter.”
A second base is reportedly operation out of a former old War-era Air Force base in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. Sources tell FP that between 30 and 40 military personnel are stationed in Baledogle Airfield military base. This unit is also reportedly conducting surveillance and counterterrorism operations using drone aircraft.
Foreign Policy also outlines the role the Central Intelligence Agency has played in training Somali soldiers. The CIA previously trained and equipped a secret Somali military unit known as the Gaashaan, or “Shield.” However, FP has revealed that U.S. contractors are also training another secret unit known as the Danab, or “Lightning”. An official with the U.S. told FP that they have trained around 450 Danab troops. Despite the admission from a U.S. official, military contractor Bancroft Global Development denies having any contracts with the U.S., stating that their role was simply to train soldiers.
Chuck Prichard, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), did confirm that a “small number” of U.S. personnel with AFRICOM are special operations forces, but would not comment on the size or location of their units. Prichard would not confirm the use of drone aircraft.
“While we cannot provide exact details because of operational security issues, we can tell you [U.S. AFRICOM] has sent a limited number of trainers and advisors plus a small military coordination cell to support AMISOM and Somali security forces in international efforts to stabilize Somali,” Prichard wrote in an email to Foreign Policy.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 2007 and 2011 U.S. forces launched at least nine missile strikes or helicopter raids on terrorist targets. Since 2011 another 8 to 12 strikes have been confirmed.
The existence of a drone airbase in a country half way around the world should not come as a surprise to Americans. Currently the U.S. military operates bases in countries around the world. The existence of these two bases in Somalia is yet another reminder that the American taxpayer is funding wars and violence around the world without any accountability or transparency.
Is this what you want to pay for? A government that operates in secret and funnels your taxes to private projects in sovereign nations that have nothing to do with maintaining national security or freedom? We can do better than this. We deserve better than this.