With all that is the happening in the Horn right now, I thought I'd revisit some of my posts from last year this time on Somalia and the Horn. It won't fully answer the question Why Somalia? but it will shed some light. I apologize for the year old info in advance, I don't have the time right now to update these posts but it is still useful background.
Back in November 2005, the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) of Somalia signed an interesting $55m contract (the post notes $50m but later info showed it was slightly higher). Why? Ostensibly as a response to the attack on the cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, a few weeks before. This whole thing was fishy, between the attackers needing a mother ship to mount the blue water attack to what was a civilian cruise ship doing with military grade hardware that is illegal under international maritime law. More came out on this, which I wrote about in an obscenely long post that questions various potential backers of TopCat (SOCOM? OGA? idiots?), looks at Congressional oversight and US arms trade laws (the value of the contract was a red flag requiring Congressional authorization, a lower value and State, i.e. Executive Branch, could authorize itself), provides some background on PMCs, and some other points.
So what? Well, between piracy, transport of AQAM (Horn jihidis have a lot in common w/ Middle East jihadis... not so much, very little, with West African jihidis by the way), and oil there are a few things.
In late November, early December, Ethiopia and TFG messages were telling of incursions in Somalia, links to Tim Spicer and his regular backers and TopCat were appearing and other fun stuff that link us to Marathon Oil, China, etc.
Then there was an interesting twist with uranium in Somalia. Who knew?
Finally the TopCat license to export was DOA at State, Eritrea was pissed at the UN, but still TopCat appeared to be part of some larger project in the area. In this post I talked about the above and opined some thoughts on what the hell TopCat was about.
To the oil, and possibly deeper links with Tim Spicer's financial backers, like a guy named Michael Grunberg (who's name appearing on this web page means I'll probably get a nasty email).
With our, and British, and German forces in the area (Djibouti), along with visits by CJCS Gen Peter Pace (on New Year's Eve) and then new German Defense Minister, the warm and fuzzy story surfaces. Right, and SAS-SBS heading down there as well. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, visited the Horn to emphasize the importance of the region.
Pentagon officials have been focusing more and more on the terrorist threat in that part of the world. They say it's not purely one posed by al-Qaida, either.
Officials say they're worried about an upswing in acts of piracy and violence that's moving further out from shore.
Most important, however, is the following (emphasis added):
One Navy admiral says he has to pour more resources into fighting the problem. He says he can't wait to establish a link between terrorist groups and pirates. As he puts it, "I have no choice but to act preemptively."
The Admiral's question is taken up again when we ask who is financing the pirates, where'd TFG get $55m to pay TopCat, what is the role of the TFG, and who has authorization to lease oil rights in Somalia.
Then there's Kenya and the hunt for AQ.
Focusing more on oil, and of course TopCat, in the area, this post on Chinese oil, LPG, and AQ was interesting, titled TopCat, Somalia, Ethiopia: Ogaden, Gedi, EPRDF/TPLF. Deeper on the TopCat & Oil connection was a look at a symposium TopCat held in Aug 2004 and the link between TopCat, Sandline, and Marathon Oil. And then we link Malaysian PETRONAS, Dutch PexCo, ostensibly Australian Range Resources, and even why did Rumsfeld ask the Pentagon's IG to probe Feith.
This all gets somewhat summarized in Puzzle Pieces: HAFZA... Somalia... TopCat... intent? Goal?
That's the terrorism and piracy angle, with a little oil dribbled on top.
For the China angle, China wants to protect its existing and expand into new claims, some of which were mapped out by US firms then abandoned. This post mostly dealt with Sudan, mentions the deal China cut with Iran, and looks at Chinese public diplomacy in support of its resource diplomacy.
Why now? Because the Islamic Council went too far, support for action increased, and better actionable intelligence. We've been there for a while and we're getting the lay of the land.