By:Jean-Jacques Cornish
The United States is being increasingly drawn into a clandestine war in Somalia.

It is a battle that will embroil the next occupant of the White House, whomever he or she may be.

The US was at pains to stay out of Somalia following the 1993 setback known as Black Hawk Down when 18 American troops died fighting warlord Mohammed Aidid.

US troops, to use an old cowboy cliche, got outta there. They avoided Somalia like the plague for some years.

However, they remained concerned about the incubation of terrorists in the virtually ungoverned Somalia and secretly supported the 2006 Ethiopian intervention to drive Islamists out of Mogadishu.

In the event, that gave rise tothe terrorist movement al-Shabaab – which means the youth in Arabic – and forced the Obama administration to think again.

The decider was al-Shabaabs attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 people dead.

Barack Obama felt obliged to drop his reluctance to put boots on the ground.

The battle against al-Shabaab included special forces, air and drone strikes, private contractors and African allies.

US attacks have increased exponentially on the movement which has been driven out of Somalia cities, but manages to make indiscriminate attacks on urban targets from its rural bases.

The terrorists have struck Somalia police and army installations, popular restaurants and hotels and African Union bases.

The US had considerable success against al-Shabaab which was growing bolder and more daring in its attacks.

Inevitably, though, there has been collateral damage with US forces inadvertently killing Somali government fighters.

They have been forced to mount more and more so-called self-defence attacks on al-Shabaab forcing, analysts say, an inevitable escalation in US military involvement in Somalia.

Michael Stock, director of the Washington-based Bancroft Global Development, says they are in the business of nurturing a kernel of Somali fighters, trained by marines, around which a competent, sustainable defence force can be built.

Theyre determined not to repeat the costly mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq where large, expensivearmies were formed that could not get the job done.

The elite Somali troops are also getting training at the US military task force in Djibouti, the self-governing enclave in the Hornwhere Washington has its only permanent base on the African continent.

Independent analysts fear that the poor training, lack of funds and equipment and poor motivation of the Somali forces will draw the US project out for many years.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is an Africa correspondent for Eyewitness News . Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish


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