Bush authorized secret attacks

NYTimes.com highlights a secret mission authorized by Bush to attack Al Qaeda anywhere in the world:

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

This immediately begs a question of why full-scale conventional war is still being pursued as the primary option if covert operations are more effective at eliminating the enemy. Even more to the point, this is exactly what many people (even Tom Clancy, if you follow Rogue Spear) advocated as the next natural order of international security.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is the obvious connection to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. I speculated at the time that the US was destabilizing the Somali government specifically to ensure America would able to continue military operations there without requiring approval or facing political resistance (e.g. pesky laws and notions of sovereignty). This seemed eerily similar to French and South African military strategy in Africa. The NY Times has confirmed this:

For example, shortly after Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia in late 2006 to dislodge an Islamist regime in Mogadishu, the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command quietly sent operatives and AC-130 gunships to an airstrip near the Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. From there, members of a classified unit called Task Force 88 crossed repeatedly into Somalia to hunt senior members of a Qaeda cell believed to be responsible for the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

At the time, American officials said Special Operations troops were operating under a classified directive authorizing the military to kill or capture Qaeda operatives if failure to act quickly would mean the United States had lost a “fleeting opportunity” to neutralize the enemy.

Occasionally, the officials said, Special Operations troops would land in Somalia to assess the strikes’ results. On Jan. 7, 2007, an AC-130 struck an isolated fishing village near the Kenyan border, and within hours, American commandos and Ethiopian troops were examining the rubble to determine whether any Qaeda operatives had been killed.

Although a stable Somalia would be good for the people living there, good for the stability of the Horn of Africa, and even good for the safety and security of the shipping trades along the coast including petroleum from the Gulf, the current US administration clearly preferred the option of extra-legal and covert control of the region to eliminate a few operatives.

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