Tag Archives: ACOTA

US Sends Military Advisors to Somalia

The Washington Post reported today that this past October, the US military deployed advisory personnel to Somalia to assist in the development of the national security forces and coordinate with African peacekeepers currently in the country.  This represents a logical expansion of the US effort with regards to Somalia.  The United States already provides significant assistance to African forces deploying in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as part of the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program and others.  ACOTA is managed by the US Department of State with help from the Department of Defense.

However, the deployment is notable given the stand-off approach the US has favored following participation in UN peacekeeping operations in the country in the early 1990s.  The US experience in Somalia was decidedly negative, even beyond the relatively well known “Black Hawk Down” incident in October 1993. Since then, the US has preferred to use airstrikes, including strikes by AC-130 gunships and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as raids by special operations forces.  In the last decade or so, unmanned aerial vehicles operating over Somalia have said to have been based in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  This past October saw both a special operations raid, which was aborted, and a drone strike, both directed at the terrorist group Al-Shabaab.  In addition, it has been reported that the US Central Intelligence Agency has been funding nominally pro-government warlords and pursuing other activities to help in this effort.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013.  One can see the decline in areas reported to be under Al-Shabaab control.

Map released by AFRICOM in its 2013 posture statement showing governance in Somalia in 2012 and 2013.

The two successive UN missions provided results that were themselves inconclusive at best and did not dramatically improve the landscape for the Somali people.  Many of the same issues that complicated those missions in the 1990s remain factors for operations today as Ethiopian and Kenyan forces have learned in the last decade.  While Ethiopian troops have long since withdrawn from the country, Kenya remains one of the primary contributors to AMISOM.  There have also been reports of Kenyan support for warlords in a semi-autonomous region in the south of the country, called Jubaland.

Though Somali government and international forces had significant success against Al-Shabaab between 2012 and 2013, the group experienced a certain resurgence in the past year.  As a result violence and international attention have again shifted to the country.  In November, the UN authorized a significant expansion of the AMISOM force, which operates under a UN mandate.  AMISOM also began planning a new offensive against Al-Shabaab and just today  Kenya announced that it had conducted an airstrike against militants near the tri-border area between Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  It is likely that any new effort against Al-Shabaab in Somalia is benefiting at least in some part from US supplied intelligence, which is likely one of the main reasons for establishing a formal US military presence on the ground in the country.

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Special Operations Forces Field Training Exercises in Africa

America’s Codebook: Africa now has a table for military training exercises in Africa to compliment its lists of military operations past and present.  I’ve also written summaries for the ones identified in official documentation as special operations forces field training exercises (“SOF FTX”).  I had been aware of two of these, Exercises Flintlock and Silent Warrior, both of which are largely focused on the Trans-Sahara / Sahel region.  I had not been aware of the other two, Exercises Nectar Bend and Noble Piper.  While Flintlock and Silent Warrior both focus on missions generally performed by special operations forces, it appears that the SOF FTX designation is applied even when the exercise is simply run by US special operations forces.

Malian soldiers conduct fast rope operations out of a MH-47 Chinook helicopter from the US Army's 160th  Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne) in Bamako, Mali on 18 May 2010 as part of Flintlock 2010.

Malian soldiers conduct fast rope operations out of a MH-47 Chinook helicopter from the US Army’s 160th Aviation Regiment (Special Operations) (Airborne) in Bamako, Mali on 18 May 2010 as part of Flintlock 2010.

Exercise Flintlock is relatively well known, though generally more recently.  It was hosted in Mali in 2010 and was scheduled to be hosted in Mali again in 2012 before the coup in that country led to its cancellation.  This years exercise was hosted in Mauritania with an eye still toward Mali, especially as many of the participants were already contributed to international efforts there or were preparing to.  Silent Warrior, a Joint Chiefs of Staff exercise focusing on the region, also popped up into the news this year.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Joint Exercise Training Program (JETP) Budget FY13, as of 18 Sept 2012

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Joint Exercise Training Program (JETP) Budget FY13, as of 18 Sept 2012 (Click for larger image)

This is very little information, however, on Nectar Bend and Noble Eagle, held regularly in Ethiopia and Kenya respectively.  These exercises, which date back at least to the 1990s, are led by US special operations forces in support of the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.  ACOTA, which is managed by the US Department of State and supported by the US Department of Defense, provides training for African forces to support their deployment on peacekeeping and other contingency operations.  ACOTA started in 1997 as the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), before switching names in 2004.  Nectar Bend, at least, predates ACRI however.  It is possible that Noble Piper does as well.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Joint Exercise Training Program (JETP) Budget FY14, as of 18 Sept 2012 (Click for larger image)

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Joint Exercise Training Program (JETP) Budget FY14, as of 18 Sept 2012 (Click for larger image)

As of 2012, there was no Nectar Bend exercise planned for 2013, though there was one planned for 2014.  It is possible that the exercise is biennial, unlike the annual Noble Piper exercise.  According to the same briefing documents, only $150,000 for Strategic Lift (STRATLIFT) for Noble Piper 2013.  STRATLIFT is the air, sea, and ground costs associated with deploying units and equipment into and out of theater.  However, $2,000,000 was budgeted for both Nectar Bend 2014 and Noble Piper 2014.  No explanation is provided in the document for this change.

AMISOM Destroys Al-Shabaab Camp

An official with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) told Voice of America’s Somali Service yesterday that the AU force had launched an attack on training camp used by the Al Qaeda-linked militant organization Al-Shabaab Somalia’s Dinsoor region in the south of the country.

The Kenyan Defense Ministry said that its contingent specifically was responsible for the attack, which it said consisted of an airstrike that “completely destroyed” the camp.  It was estimated that over three hundred recruits were in the camp at the time of the attack and that many of them had been killed.

The Kenyan Defense Ministry indicated that militants responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September had been directly linked to the camp.  The attack followed a strike in the town of Jilib on Monday, believed to have been a US strike involving an unmanned aerial vehicle.  This strike was reported to have killed Ibrahim Ali Abdi, said to be the mastermind behind Al-Shabaab’s suicide missions.  The US also provides considerable training and material support for AU forces deploying to Somalia as part of AMISOM through the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program, which is led and funded by the US Department of State.