The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia

A Nation article by Jeremy Scahill, documents the activities of CIA and JSOC operatives in Somalia – a country now under the crosshairs of expanding US counterterrorism operations, given established ties between al-Shabab (a Somalia Islamic militant group) and al-Qaeda.

 The CIA runs its compound in Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International airport. At the site, the CIA  trains Somali intelligence agents aimed at building a taskforce capable of ‘snatch’ and ‘targeted’ combat operations agains al-Shabab and al-Qaeda. The CIA also uses a secret prison in buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters. Some ofthe prisoners at the facility have been snatched of the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane, including Ahmed Abdullahi Hassan, a 25- or 26-year-old Kenyan citizen who disappeared from the congested Somali slum of Eastleigh in Nairobi around July 2009.

While the prison is officially run by the NSA, its operatives are paid by US intelligence, who are often active in interrogations. US intelligence officials are reluctant to engage directly with Somalia government, given accusations of widespread corruption.

The CIA presence is part of a wider intensification of counterrorism operations in Somalia, that has previously included targeted strikes by drones and US Special Operations – in addition to wider surveillance. ‘Essentially, the CIA seems to be operating, doing the foreign policy of the United States,’ said a well-connected Somali analyst.

 Somali government forces in the country only control a 30 square mile territory in Mogadishu, aided by a US-funded and armed 9,000 AMISOM force, with the rest of the city under al-Shabab and warlord influence.

During his confirmation hearings  to become the head of the US Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven said, “From my standpoint as a former JSOC commander, I can tell you we were looking very hard” at Somalia. Asked in an interview with The Nation in Mogadishu if US drone strikes strengthen or weaken his government, President Sharif replied, “Both at the same time. For our sovereignty, it’s not good to attack a sovereign country. That’s the negative part. The positive part is you’re targeting individuals who are criminals.”

President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, described an emerging US strategy that would focus not on “deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.” Brennan singled out the Shabab, saying, “From the territory it controls in Somalia, Al Shabab continues to call for strikes against the United States,” adding, “We cannot and we will not let down our guard. We will continue to pummel Al Qaeda and its ilk.”

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