America's War in the Horn of Africa: “Drone Alley” – a Harbinger of Western
Power across the African Continent
US Military Confirms Washington’s Secret New War in Somalia Despite Official
by Finian Cunningham
> Global Research, October 30, 2011
US military sources have confirmed that the Obama administration is engaged
in a new war in the famine-hit Horn of Africa region.
The disclosure in the Washington Post  comes only days after other
prominent Western media outlets, including the New York Times and the
Financial Times, carried denials from the US government that it was involved
in directly supporting Kenyan forces that invaded Somalia on 16 October.
Global Research first reported on 19 October  the lethal use of US drones
in attacks on various locations across southern Somalia in a coordinated air
campaign to assist the advance of Kenyan ground troops deep into Somali
territory held by Islamic insurgents. We reported that US drones began
attacking Somali targets days before the Kenyan army began its incursion,
and have continued in a pattern that indicates American air power is being
used to pave the way for ground forces as they advance towards the southern
port city of Kismayu – the main stronghold of the Al Shabab insurgents,
which the US government accuses of having links with Al Qaeda.
It is believed that scores of Somali fighters and civilians have been killed
over the past two weeks by US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that have
attacked several cities and towns, including Qoqani, Afmadow and Kismayu.
Global Research also reported on 26 October  that French naval forces had
joined the bombing campaign – again despite official French denials carried
in Western media – and that the conclusion from these military developments
was clear: Washington and Paris are now engaging in a secret new war in East
Africa ¬– a region where up to 12 million people are at risk of starvation
from years of drought and Western-induced conflict.
On 27 October, the Washington Post cited US military officials confirming
the deployment of attack and surveillance drones in “a rapidly expanding
US-led proxy war against an al Qaeda affiliate in East Africa”. The UAVs –
also known as Reapers or Hunter Killers – are believed to be operated from a
site in southern Ethiopia, Arba Minch, as well as from US bases in Djibouti
and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
The WP report states: “The [US] Air Force has invested millions of dollars
to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, where it has built a small
annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles
and satellite-guided bombs. The Reapers began flying missions earlier this
year over neighboring Somalia… The location of the Ethiopian base and the
fact that it became operational this year, however, have not been previously
This disclosure of US military operations in Somalia amounts to an admission
that Washington is at war. However, the Washington Post, while stating
“rapidly expanding US-led proxy war”, does not highlight the legal
implications of that startling admission, concentrating its reportage on
technical and logistical issues that are providing “support for [US]
security assistance programs”.
Iranian news channel Press TV – citing civilian eyewitnesses and Kenyan and
Somali military officials – has been one of the few media outlets that has
consistently reported the almost daily lethal US drone attacks in southern
Somalia since the Kenyan invasion. However, even Press TV has not drawn the
explicit conclusion that this amounts to war.
While the other Western news media, including the BBC, Reuters and the New
York Times, had earlier reported increased US drone activity in Somalia
between June and September, these outlets appeared to have dropped coverage
of the deadly attacks being reported since and just before 16 October.
Following the disclosure in the Washington Post, the BBC on 28 October
seemed to resume its coverage, with the headline: “US flies drones from
Ethiopia to fight Somali militants”. The BBC, as with the WP, does not view
this as an act of war, and stressed that the “remotely-piloted drones were
being used only for surveillance” – contrary to evidence on the ground.
As well as playing down the fact of US-led war in Somalia, the mainstream
media now seem to be crafting a new narrative for the military offensive.
The initial pretext for the Kenyan ground invasion faithfully repeated in
the Western media was the “hot pursuit” of kidnap gangs allegedly belonging
to Al Shabab. It is true that there has been a spate of kidnappings of
Western holidaymakers and aid workers from Kenyan territory by gangs
suspected to originate inside Somalia. However, there is no proof that Al
Shabab has been involved and indeed the militant group has denied any
Now it seems that the rationale being given for the Kenyan invasion and
Western “technical support” has subtly morphed into an extension of the “war
on terror”. Al Shabab has been waging an insurgency against the
Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, which was installed in 2009
with the support of US and other Western governments as a bulwark against
the Islamists. The TFG has only managed to maintain a tenuous grip on power
thanks in part to Washington’s military and economic support and to the
presence of thousands of African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi.
Al Shabab is on Washington’s terror list and is accused of having links to
Al Qaeda. However, many Western analysts do not consider Al Shabab to be a
regional threat. The Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington-aligned
think-tank, estimates that the group has only a few hundred hardcore
combatants and that its alleged links to Al Qaeda may be no more than
rhetorical. Nevertheless, the militants have prevented the pro-Western TFG
from gaining control of the country. In that way, the group has thwarted
Washington and Western geopolitical dominance of the strategically important
East African maritime territory.
This would seem to be a more plausible explanation for the US/French/Kenyan
war in Somalia. Namely, the assertion of Western geopolitical control,
rather than “war on terror” and certainly not the hot pursuit of kidnap
gangs. That gives the real meaning behind the “constellation of US drone
bases” being operated in the region – to strike any African country when and
where required. Currently, Somalia (and Yemen) is in the firing line. But
the entire region appears being turned into a “drone alley”. It is perhaps
only a matter of time before reports emerge of drone activity in Sudan,
Eritrea, Uganda and elsewhere. The recent deployment of US Special Forces in
Uganda and other Central African countries is also a harbinger of this
strategic force projection.
The bigger picture to this is, as John Pilger noted previously in Global
Research, a “modern scramble for African resources” by Western powers, which
have in recent years watched enviously the growing influence of China in the
region. This neo-imperialist scramble for Africa is consistent with NATO’s
conquest of Libya. The close collaboration between the US and France in the
bombing of North Africa is now being rolled out in East Africa.
It also marks a new era of lawlessness by Western powers. Not only can
President Barack Obama personally order the assassination of individuals
with his penchant for “hunter killer” drones. Evidently from developments in
Somalia, Commander-in-Chief Obama is no longer obliged to notify the US
Congress or the American people of their country’s engagement in new wars.
Nor is he obliged to even seek a phony UN mandate. Not so long ago such
abuse of power would be sure grounds for impeachment.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa
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Received on Sun Oct 30 2011 - 18:36:47 EDT