Buried in with today’s news was this story about one of our secret wars, this time in Somalia. It appears that now we’re using African proxies to fight Al Shabab there.
Richard Rouget, a gun for hire over two decades of bloody African conflict, is the unlikely face of the American campaign against militants in Somalia.
A husky former French Army officer, Mr. Rouget, 51, commanded a group of foreign fighters during Ivory Coast’s civil war in 2003, was convicted by a South African court of selling his military services and did a stint in the presidential guard of the Comoros Islands, an archipelago plagued by political tumult and coup attempts.
Now Mr. Rouget works for Bancroft Global Development, an American private security company that the State Department has indirectly financed to train African troops who have fought a pitched urban battle in the ruins of this city against the Shabab, the Somali militant group allied with Al Qaeda.
The company plays a vital part in the conflict now raging inside Somalia, a country that has been effectively ungoverned and mired in chaos for years. The fight against the Shabab, a group that United States officials fear could someday carry out strikes against the West, has mostly been outsourced to African soldiers and private companies out of reluctance to send American troops back into a country they hastily exited nearly two decades ago.
Note the word “someday” in that last paragraph. This describes the potential aspirational wishes of Al Shabab to wage terrorist attacks outside their own continent. Al Shabab was implicated in a recent bomb attack in Uganda. But implicit in the statement is the belief that Al Shabab could not attack the West currently. And yet we’re paying a mercenary company to train African mercenaries to fight Al Shabab on their turf. And we’re paying a fair bit of money for the privilege.
The article also mentions the building in Mogadishu that the CIA has used to undertake joint interrogations of Somali terror suspects. This was uncovered by Jeremy Scahill several weeks ago, where he recounted incidents of torture. So you have the proxy war, along with the proxy torture regime. And there are drones in the air in Somalia as well.
This is probably, if you can believe it, the least interventionist of our major covert wars happening right now, compared to Yemen and Pakistan. But it has every feature of a traditional war, from ground troops to interrogation to air support. Bancroft Global Development even has a fortified camp in Mogadishu, where it drove Al Shabab out in the past week.
We’re seeing the privatization of war, waged by corporate brands rather than nations. In this case, the US reimburses the African nations (Uganda and Burundi) sending troops into Somalia, but it might as well be a direct proxy. The precedent, as you can see, is extremely dangerous.