An important, must-read article by Jeremy Scahill is just up at The Nation website, detailing the CIA's secret rendition and training activities in Somalia. Among other things, Scahill reports that
the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted “combat” operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.
the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters, where prisoners suspected of being Shabab members or of having links to the group are held. Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu. While the underground prison is officially run by the Somali NSA, US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners.
All of this is in service to Washington's developing counterterrorism strategy in East Africa, which also includes a recently sealed, $45 million military package to Uganda and Burundi to help combat the rising tide of Islamic extremism with unarmed drones and other state-of-the-art equipment.
Alex Thurston argues that the drones and other increased American attention runs the risk of making the situation in Somalia worse for US interests, as foreign intervention prompts blowback in the form of increased recrutiment numbers for anti-American militias.
Compounding the problem still further, Scahill points out that the CIA-led program hasn't really acheived much.
“So far what we have not seen is the results in terms of the capacity of the [Somali] agency,” says the official. He conceded that neither US nor Somali forces have been able to conduct a single successful targeted mission in the Shabab’s areas in the capital. In late 2010, according to the official, US-trained Somali agents conducted an operation in a Shabab area that failed terribly and resulted in several of them being killed. “There was an attempt, but it was a haphazard one,” he recalls. They have not tried another targeted operation in Shabab-controlled territory since.