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'A Period of Persistent Conflict'

Author: Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
November 6, 2012
Foreign Policy

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In January 2007, with no public debate, congressional hearings, or news coverage, the United States intervened militarily in another country: Somalia.

On December 24, 2006, supported by U.S. tactical intelligence, military training, and "less than a dozen" special operations forces on the ground, Ethiopia had invaded Somalia with the goal of unseating the ruling Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). As the Ethiopian ground offensive quickly overwhelmed CIC defenses surrounding the capital of Mogadishu, Somali militants and al-Qaeda affiliates fled south. Some were tracked by U.S. Predator drones and cell phone intercepts.

Two weeks later, a U.S. Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunshipflying out of eastern Ethiopia fired at a convoy of suspected militants near the village of Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia. The targets were senior al Qaeda operatives allegedly involved in the East African U.S. embassy bombings in August 1998. However, Ethiopian troops and U.S. special operations forces that arrived after the attack confirmed that the targets were not in the convoy, although ten other suspected Somali militants were killed. As an American official later acknowledged, "Frankly, I don't think we know who we killed."

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