"Blackhawk down"-Were the US Forces set Up?

I was re-reading the book last night-and perhaps i missed something. Were the US forces actually set up? As I recall, the US (under Adm. Howe) got the idea that capturing Adid (the clan warlord) would lead to all kinds of good things happening. As we all know, the mission to capture Adid went awry-and the US lost 18 soldiers. Is it possible that the somali informers (“working” for the USA) were actually double agents, and had set up the us for the disaster.
Tha would explain why the trap 9for the US) was so well prepared 9the somali fighters had tons of ammunition).
In any event, how did Adm. Howe come to belive that capturung Adid would lead to peace? And, the US wound up leaving in a hurry-worsening the overall situation.
Given the present state of Somalia-will President Obama be in any position to send in US troops again?:smack:

I cant answer the first question, but my WAG is that the US were trying to show the uppity natives who was boss - e.g. that no one was beyond the reach of Uncle Sam and so you had better stop fighting or you will be next.

Oh and thinking “what happens next” should be a politicians job, not a soldiers. Unfortunately it usually turns out to be no ones.

Possible, but not necessary. Adid knew the US wanted him, he knew they would come after him with helicopters. He could have just set up the ambush with that knowledge alone.
Capturing the opposing commander is a time honored tactic in war.

The Delta and Ranger units there had already been conducting snatches and raids for months. The Somalis already had plenty of weapons because, after all, they have a fantastic arms market right there in Mogadishu. All they needed was the right timing. That timing was provided by the downing of a Blackhawk helicopter right in the middle of the most dangerous neighborhood by a modified RPG. If the Somalis hadn’t shot down a helicopter on this particular raid, they could have just tried again later.

A set-up scenario doesn’t work. The goal would presumably to inflict a devastating blow to the US forces (which it didn’t) and cause a pullout (which it did), but Somalis had already ambushed a Pakistani peacekeeping force and killed 23 soldiers with the result being increased UN presence. There would be no reason to assume that getting into a battle in which the Somali forces would take losses at a ratio of 100:1 would cause the reaction it did.

In addition, the mission itself was successful; the goal was not to capture Aideed, but to capture several of his top aides. Most of the targets of the raid were captured. Given the amount of planning some sort of massive trap would take, I find it improbable that Aideed would throw a bunch of his own top guys to the wolves, especially since they provided a lot of useful intel to the UN forces regarding Aideed’s logistics.

On an interesting and somewhat chilling side-note, in every genocide conducted since the battle of Mogadishu, the first step for those committing atrocities has been to ambush and kill a small number of UN peacekeepers, which resulted in UN withdrawals from the area.

To answer the second of the OP’s questions, Aideed was/is a warlord with a large gang of somewhat organized thugs who spent all day stealing foreign food aid and chewing kat. Somalia’s violence isn’t generally driven by religion or culture, it’s more akin to street gang violence. Thus, taking out the leader and perhaps trying him for crimes against humanity might reduce the overall level of violence in the country. (Also note that a lot of the troops involved in the BHD incident were not Aideed’s, they just joined in the shooting.)

Finally, Obama is certainly in a position to use troops in Somalia, if the U.S. decides that it’s within the interests of the country to end Somalia’s starvation, atrocities, and ongoing extra-territorial violence (such as pirate attacks). It is not, and never has been, a question of military capability, only a question of political will. Clinton decided to withdraw troops after the news coverage showed our casualties. Bush did not pull out of Afghanistan or Iraq under similar circumstances. The UN has followed Clinton’s lead until very recently, whereas France is usually more accepting of military casualties, and the Pakistanis believe very strongly in defending Muslims around the world. So to answer your final question, it really just depends on how Obama weighs the values of American lives and assets against foreign lives and regional stability.

…National Public Radio had a Kenyan journalist explaining how now Africa has a guy leading the most powerful nation in the world, but Oprah winfrey showed, it can be a tough row to hoe, she has a lawsuit by a person at her school.

?? :confused: ??

Did I miss something?

Can we get that in English?

FTR, Aideed died in 1996 from complications due to a gunshot wound.

The mindset at the time, fomented by the Clinton critics was that the warlords (Adid) were the problem. Keep in mind that Clinton inherited the problem from the Bush I administration and they were looking for a way out. They bowed to media and public pressure and went after Adid in an ill-conceived operation. (Waco was the same scenario except that it was domestic. It was inherited). In the classic American arrogance, the military went in with superior power but ill-prepared if things didn’t go according to plan. Of course, Murphy’s Law always rules in warfare. The Americans got sucked in, there were locals that would sell out any information for a dollar and the American forces found themselves in a mess. It was like Tet. The Americans suffered far, far fewer casualties but they lost politically.

Les Aspin paid with his job because of 18 US casualties. The Clinton haters said that because of it he (Clinton) wasn’t fit to be Commander in Chief. Those same people didn’t say a whole lot when the operation in Iraq when haywire and 4,000 US soldiers died. It took years for Rumsfeld to lose his job.

I still don’t get it…as an isolationist, I am against sending US soldiers into anybodie’s random civil wars. Why did Howe think that capturing Adid would do anything? Some other rival would just take over. Surely, by the time of Blackhawk Down, the US forces knew they were hated-the locals wer taking pot shots at them, and mortar attacks (upon the US barracks) were common. This is not to say that the US didn’t desreve some of the blame-we casually messed up people’s markets and acted with arrogance and foolishness.
I feel bad for the young men who died-a total waste, and nothing positive accomplished.
We don’t seem to learn much from these things.

The focus on the “gang” aspect strikes me as at once very typically American and part of the mistaken analysis that got the Americans in trouble in Somali.

Yes, of course, Aidid was a criminal warlord. But he was also an important guy in the Aidid clan, and clan / tribal politics are essentially politics in Somali. I believe most non-American analyses of what happened in Somali in the early 90s focus on the Americans having not understood clan politics, and ended up giving the sub-clans / clans associated with the Aidid a sense of common cause with Mohammed Farah Aidid, rather than exploiting clan politics to divide them. In short, Americans mistook their modern social organisation as explanatory for a tribal society, where blood lines often trump other political conseridations. I recall reading the Americans emphasis on technology as a solution - helos rather than human intel, air raids etc. had endd up blowing back.

After the Pakistanis got killed (24 soldiers from), thats actually when the international community got serious. The Pakistanis dispached a whole armoured division to Somalia, while the US sent a task force under the 10th Mountian Division. The particular raid was not in isolation. The Pakistanis got popped in June, there was a major offensive on from July in an attempt to clear the country and setup a government. Aideed was just one of the warlords it should be remembered, but the major one.

At the time the US carried out its operation, the Pakistanis were carrying out an operation elsewhere in Mogidhishu, they had to extricate themselves from the fighting to send help. Blackhawk Down is not a good source, you should read Gen Zinnis “Battle Ready”, much more accurate.

I wasn’t claiming it was like the bloods or crips, but the political situation (as it were) in Somalia is organized along which group has the most guns, resources, and willingness to use force. There are several documentaries about Somalia both pre- and post-BHD that interview Somalis and discuss what’s going on with the country. It is important to note that Aideed was never in any way in charge of Somalia, he was merely one of the most powerful warlords. There were and are many other factions, some driven along clan lines, some with religious intent, some democratic, and even a communist group.

To state that Americans (in their typical way) came into Somalia with no understanding of the culture or local power situation, and failed to accomplish anything is glib at best. Most of the intel we gathered was from informants, with a healthy dose of radio intercepts and talks with various rival faction higher-ups. Helicopters were used extensively, as per US doctrine, but as force multipliers rather than intelligence assets. Random violence was down during the heavy UN presence. Arms shipments were being intercepted. Technicals were shoot-on-sight, and had disappeared from the streets of Mogadishu. Most accounts say that civil violence was winding down, and not because they had all united against the UN invaders.

The assumption that people tend to make about Somalia is that it was some sort of enormous failure. This may or may not be true, but not for the commonly assumed reasons.

Fisrt, Clinton inherited the problem from Bush only because he took office. Bush had signed on to the UN plan to help stabilize Somalia. The majority of US troops were deployed after the Pakistani incident. Clinton also made a large issue out of the Bosnia atrocities during his campaign, asking why Bush was not pressuring the UN for action. Claiming that Clinton was only in Somalia because we were already there is disingenuous.

Second, the fact is that any time you have your troops deployed in close proximity to large numbers of other troops with guns, there will be casualties. Our military plans had certainly accounted for helicopter crashes and casualties. In Samantha Power’s book, she talks about how Washington recieved the news – as a tragic setback, but not entirely unexpected. Remember that the entire Somalia deployment had 45 US casualties total, many previous to the Battle of Mogadishu. Only the news coverage of our soldier being dragged through the streets a few hours later caused the massive policy change. It is also instructive to remember that our captured pilot was eventually returned unharmed, illustrating a fundamental difference in political climate between Somalia and Iraq/Afghanistan. In an even odder twist, Aideed’s son was a U.S. Marine at the time.

The question Somalia raised was not the effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, or the ability of the western world to understand how Somalia worked politically, or why would would go into a country where everyone hated us (they didn’t). The real question it raised was a policy issue: How much political heat and how many dead Americans/Pakistanis/French/Canadians are we willing to accept? Clinton was by all accounts terrified of losing soldiers, whereas G.W. was less so. Either one is a defensible position, though my guess is that on this board there are more people who are anti-war than liberal interventionist and there appear to be very few conservative hawk-types. Even so, it’s important to understand that the BHD incident, and later reluctance to commit troops, were not American imperialism compounded by failure to understand, but rather a complex web of cost and benefit judgments, as in Rwanda when it was determined that we could lose one American soldier for every 50,000 Rwandans that we could save. (LeBor’s book)

Either view has merit, I just think it’s not accurate or honest to call Somalia a debacle by the military or as an example of why interventionism is doomed to always be a failure. I suggest that discussion as to the value of isolationism or interventionism, if any, is better suited for GD, but there is a lot of misinformation out there, mostly based on a few mediapathic images and talking points, rather than an actual understanding of the situation.

This. The Bakaara Market is bad neighborhood, personified. Everybody is armed and pissed off. This was a glorious opportunity to kill Americans and everyone joined in.

Side note- that incident nearly destroyed Delta’s C Squadron. It took almost a decade to rebuild it after the devastating losses. Remember, SFOD-D is a very small outfit, made up of only 3 squadrons.

IVN1188- thanks for that detailed write up. Certainly plenty of school for thought there.

Excellent post Ivn111. The political issue was paramount and not just in the US. In Pakistan, the government fell after the soliders were killed, and the new setup sent a whole armoured division as reinforcements. Yet I am sure they also considered withrawing as well. Perhaps if Clinton had sent more troops, but it was not really politically possible for him to do so.

This is the point; somewhere under Adm. Howe’s watch, the USA forces went from being welcomed defenders, to hated occupiers. I think it had something to do with deciding to take part in a civil war. if we had confined ourselves to guarding the food and handing out lolipops, we would not have had 18 dead soldiers.
Am i alone in not caring about 3rd-world civil wars? It is NONE of our business.

About a year before we put forces on the ground there, I was on a MEU in the neighborhood (Marine Expeditionary Unit, 2,200 Marines with their stuff on three boats), and we had gotten warning orders and worked up operational plans to do a NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operation) in the next nation to the north, Djibouti (I hope this isn’t classified anymore). I followed the Somalia stuff fairly closely during those days, from the nighttime “amphibious landing” in December 1992 of another MEU under the glaring lights of the CNN camera crews (the Army already had feet on the ground) to the BHD events and the fallout from that. Early on, the Marines and Army forces did stop the Food Emergency in the area, by safeguarding convoys of relief supplies. They were highly visible in the area, running routine patrols, helping stabilize the criminal situation, building bridges, clearing roads. 99% Humanitarian Mission.

Then in May, 1993 the UN took over from the Army and Marines, but there was now a large Ranger unit there, kinda working alone, and kinda working for the UN, unclear command. Unclear mission. More armed clashes began, and as I recall, the Rangers hunkered down at the airport, and greatly reduced the routine patrols and “Hi, How are you?” visits, and more did raids and hit and run ops. This lack of continued presence in the area allowed the Bad Guys ™ to rearm, and gain a better foothold.

Kinda like having a beat cop walking the neighborhood for a while, helping to mend your picket fences, then later on having SWAT teams do raids in the neighborhood, smash and grabs. Changes the dynamics of the neighborhood.

If I recall correctly, there was also a U.S. helicopter attack on a clan meeting that killed many elders of Aidid’s tribe. The ensuing outrage led to the death of several journalists and helped unite warring clans against the U.N. mission.

Or am I misremembering?