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04 February 2002

Intelligence Key to Anti-terrorism in Africa, Former Ambassador Says

(Shinn discusses possible U.S. involvement in Somalia) (700)
By Aly Lakhaney
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Terming U.S. monitoring of potential terrorist sites in
Africa a correct course, former Ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn
called recently for "continued collection of intelligence and
surveillance of the waters off shore and the airspace above Somalia."
While many American officials have been tight-lipped about possible
military action in Africa, "leave no doubt that Somalia is being
looked at carefully," said Shinn, who made his comments January 29 at
George Washington University in Washington, in a speech titled "The
Horn of Africa and International Terrorism."
Shinn, who served as the deputy director of the Somalia Task Force and
coordinator for Somalia in 1992 and 1993, recognized that "there has
been a major effort to improve our intelligence on Somalia." The
United States has also "solicited the cooperation of Somalia's
neighbors...both on the intelligence front and on a contingency basis
for use of their territory in a future action in Somalia."
He identified intelligence as a major obstacle in action against
Somalia because "there has been no on-the-ground American presence and
precious few visitors to the southern two-thirds of Somalia since
1994." Shinn added, "U.S. understanding of events and intelligence on
Somalia has been abysmal -- at least until recently."
In the U.S. effort to cut off funding of terrorist organizations, "the
U.S. seized the assets and shut down the U.S. offices of al-Barakat,
the leading Somali money transfer company that the U.S. says has links
to al-Qaeda. Al-Barakat also ran a long-distance telephone company
using AT&T services. That is no longer in operation," said Shinn.
The United States has also had some international support for its
efforts in Somalia as "German, French, [and] American planes and ships
have significantly increased surveillance of the 1,900-mile-long
[3040-kilometer long] Somali coast and Somali airspace, with the goal
of preventing al-Qaeda members from entering Somalia from
Afghanistan," said Shinn.
"These are all appropriate measures," said the former ambassador.
Shinn also recommended taking action against al-Ittihad, a
Somali-based terrorist organization that "evolved in the aftermath of
the collapse of the Somali national government." Al-Ittihad's goals
include the creation of "an Islamic state in Somalia and either to
incorporate the Ogaden [the huge eastern region of Ethiopia peopled
mostly by Somalis] into that state or at least free it of Ethiopian
control," according to the former ambassador. Al-Ittihad is also
allegedly connected to al-Qaeda, he said.
Putting "pressure on factions in Somalia to remove al-Ittihad and
al-Qaeda" and "work[ing] closely with Somalia's neighbors and
encourag[ing] them to crack down on al-Ittihad supporters" were among
the suggestions made by Shinn for U.S. action.
The former ambassador also discussed the possibility of a "snatch and
grab" operation against members of al-Ittihad, a strategy that was
used by the United States in its 1993 campaign in Somalia. "If an
opportunity based on incontrovertible intelligence arises for the
snatch of a major terrorist, grab it," he said.
Shinn voiced concern about taking military action in Somalia similar
to that taken in Afghanistan. "It is unlikely there are any terrorist
training camps left," and "any al-Ittihad follower with any brains has
long since tried to blend in with other Somalis. One can seriously ask
if there are any targets to bomb," said Shinn.
As for the "snatch and grab" strategy, Shinn pointed to the U.S.
record in Mogadishu from 1993, which "was not very good, even when the
U.S. had thousands of troops on the ground." Shinn concluded, "There
was just too much bad intelligence."
"The military options are not very inviting, especially when the
threat to the United States from Somalia seems questionable," said
Shinn, and he recommended that "the U.S. avoid significant military
action in Somalia" until "intelligence indicates there is a greater
threat than appears to be the case now."
The former ambassador added, "If the international community wants to
deal meaningfully with the long-term problem of Islamic fundamentalism
in Somalia, it should consider steps that help lead to the
establishment of a viable national government."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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