Posts Tagged ‘Seychellen’

USA: … und jetzt nach Afrika!

Samstag, Januar 28th, 2012

“East Africa Is the New Epicenter of America’s Shadow War

By Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2012 | 6:30 am |

When Adm. Eric Olson, the former leader of U.S. Special Operations Command, wanted to explain where his forces were going, he would show audiences a photo that NASA took, titled “The World at Night.” The lit areas showed the governed, stable, orderly parts of the planet. The areas without lights were the danger zones — the impoverished, the power vacuums, the places overrun with militants that prompted the attention of elite U.S. troops. And few places were darker, in Olson’s eyes, than East Africa.

Quietly, and especially over the last two to three years, special operations forces have focused on that very shadowy spot on NASA’s map (see below). The successful Tuesday night raid to free two humanitarian aid workers from captivity in Somalia is only the most recent and high-profile example. More and more elite forces have transited through a mega-base in Djibouti that’s a staging ground for strikes on al-Qaida allies in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia.

It’s not quite the new Pakistan, or even the new Yemen, but it’s close — especially as new bases for the U.S.’s Shadow Wars pop up and expand. The U.S. military sometimes seemed like it was casting about for a reason to set up shop in Africa. Counterterrorism has given it one.

Fighting Somalia’s pirates might get most of the media attention. But the U.S. is much more concerned about al-Shabab. The al-Qaida aligned movement seeks to depose the Somali government, recruits from radicalized American Muslims and may have sought to bring terrorism back to U.S. shores. Just across a very narrow Gulf of Aden is Yemen, the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has repeatedly tried to attack America.

In 2009, the top U.S. intelligence official pointed to Yemen and “parts of Africa” where al-Qaida’s leadership might “relocate” if it lost its Pakistani safe haven, to “exploit a weak central government and close proximity to established recruitment, fundraising, and facilitation networks.” His successor told Congress in 2011 that al-Shabab would “probably grow stronger… absent more effective and sustained activities to disrupt them.”

That’s where the forces Olson used to run came in.

Located northwest of Somalia is a former French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti called Camp Lemonnier. The U.S. military has been there for a decade. It’s a resupply point for U.S. ships passing by, as well as the home of a multinational, American-led counterterrorism team called the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Recently, more and more special operations forces have called it a temporary home. Camp Lemonnier was where the commando team took hostages Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted for medical care after freeing them. But the camp is much more than just a big medical facility: it’s also a staging ground for the growing Shadow War in Somalia — and particularly a drone war over it.

Much of the day-to-day fight against al-Shabab is outsourced to African peacekeepers. But the raids and strikes that U.S. commandos have launched against specific Shabab targets are becoming more frequent. Cruise missiles and even, apparently, U.S. helicopter strikes have also hit the group. Special operators even launch raids at sea: this spring, they captured captured one Shabab affiliate, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, offshore in the Gulf of Aden before detaining him for weeks aboard the U.S.S. Boxer.

Then comes the drone war. Lemonnier isn’t the only U.S. base near the Horn. Throughout the last decade, the military ran a smaller special-operations base in Kenya and another in Ethiopia. Now an Ethiopian outpost will become a launchpad for U.S. drones, as will a facility nearby in the Seychelles, all to launch strikes against al-Qaida allies in East Africa. The most recent of them struck Sunday outside Mogadishu, killing a British-born militant.

Nor is the military the only U.S. organization at work in east Africa. Somalia has attracted the CIA as well, which runs a secret prison attached to the Mogadishu airport. During earlier iterations of the CIA’s post-9/11 involvement in Somalia, it blustered that its operations were protected by drones that actually weren’t overhead — all while it assembled a coalition of friendly warlords to help fight al-Qaida. Nor has the FBI been left out of the action: it worked with the special operations forces to free Buchanan and Thisted on Tuesday night, although Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said no FBI personnel accompanied the raiding team.

Another dramatic expansion of U.S. power in Africa, however, may have been hiding in plain sight.

When President George W. Bush created the U.S. Africa Command in 2007, it wasn’t really clear what the organization was. Humanitarian aid dispensary? Laboratory for African troops to train with their U.S. counterparts? Vehicle for Americanization of Africa’s wars?

The question hasn’t totally been settled. But Africa Command has had a very busy year. In March, it led the initial phase of the U.S./NATO war on Moammar Gadhafi, launching a fusillade of Tomahawk missiles, flew jamming jets and operated conventional ships, subs and fighter jets before handing the war off to a Canadian general. In October, it sent a small advisory force to central Africa to help combat the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army.

Its leader, Army Gen. Carter Ham, hasn’t been in charge for a full year yet, but his busy schedule thus far was capped by last night’s Somalia raid — for which he was the senior-most officer in command, according to the Pentagon. The raid is a sign that Africa Command places great emphasis on its relationship with the U.S.’ elite forces, who, tacitly, help entrench the command’s relevance.

That’s going to remain the case as long as a decimated al-Qaida relies on proxies like al-Shabab to retain its own relevance. And it’s going to remain the case as long as Obama leans on special operators and the CIA to prosecute his Shadow Wars, which pursue terrorists indefinitely even while Obama draws down the large land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When looking at where counterterrorism goes next, it helps to squint at the obscured places on Olson’s map.

Photos: David Axe, NASA”

 

(Quelle: Wired.com)

USA: Auf dem Weg zum globalen Drohnenkrieg?

Donnerstag, September 22nd, 2011

“U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.

Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.

“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”

A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.

Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”

To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.

“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”

In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.

U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”

The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.

The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.

The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.

The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.

“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.

An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.

Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.

“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.”

 

(Quelle: The Washington Post.)

Spanien: Kurz vor dem Staatsbankrott, doch Millionen Euro für neue Waffen sind (noch) da

Samstag, Mai 29th, 2010

“Spain to Enlist Drones in Fight Against Somali Pirates

By Sharon Weinberger / Contributor

(May 28) — Military ships patrolling Africa waters have tracked pirates using submarine-hunting aircraft, shipboard radar and helicopters. Now, drones are increasingly being added to the arsenal of weapons targeting pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Spain plans to deploy unmanned helicopters as part of its military operations against the pirates. ‘It’s the first time that Spain will use a remote-controlled patrol in the European mission Atalanta,’ noted Avionews.

Operation Atalanta is the name for the European Union’s anti-piracy naval patrol, designed to protect ships off the coast of Somalia, which have been the target of increasing attacks. Eight member countries, including Spain, participate in those operations.

The Spanish government hasn’t decided specifically what type of unmanned vehicle it will purchase, but it expects to spend 17 million euros to buy four aircraft for the anti-piracy mission, according to The Barcelona Reporter.

There are a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Spain could choose. Canadian aerospace company Bombardier has reportedly developed a small unmanned helicopter designed for anti-piracy, called Crows Nest, and in the U.S., Northrop Grumman has touted unmanned vehicles like its Fire Scout UAV for anti-piracy operations.

Last year, the U.S. announced plans to send unarmed versions of the MQ-9 Reaper drone to the Seychelles to combat piracy.”

(Quelle: AOL News.)