Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somalia Crisis Spurs Pentagon to Reorient Training of US Troops

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Somalia Crisis Spurs Pentagon to Reorient Training of US Troops

Article excerpt

SUDDENLY the United States is returning to Somalia - sort of.

Despite some criticism that US-led United Nations attacks on a Somali warlord have gone too far, US officials say they intend to pursue retaliation against a man they call a "thug" and blame for a deadly attack on Pakistani peacekeepers earlier this month.

US air power is flowing back to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, with four more AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters arriving this week to supplement the AC-130H gunships which have pummeled forces of Gen. Mohammed Farah Aideed in recent days.

US officials say they regret that civilians have died in the upsurge of Somali violence. But they term it essential that General Aideed be disarmed and UN authority be established.

"It is crucial that the United States support the UN effort," said Secretary of Defense Les Aspin in a speech on June 14.

Restoration of order and the free flow of relief supplies is the goal of the operation, according to the US. But some critics question whether calm will return to Mogadishu anytime soon, considering that a man who controls much of the city has clearly been put on notice that he is to be destroyed - at least politically, and possibly even personally.

"How are they going to pick up the pieces afterward?" asks John Mackinlay, a Brown University senior researcher and co-author of a recent study on UN peacekeeping.

That the US and the UN have at least entered a new phase of their peacekeeping mission is clear. In Somalia UN "blue helmets" are no longer even pretending to be passive policemen. They are actively attempting to pacify a country still full of people with guns.

How do you train and equip troops for that kind of engagement? That's a problem that the Pentagon is facing as it advances into the post-cold-war world. US forces are certainly going to be heavily involved in peacekeeping operations in the future, whether they form the backbone of the effort - as they did early on in Somalia - or not. …

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