Apparently, for the past two years, CIA case officers based in Nairobi have been making trips to Somalia laden with briefcases packed with hundreds of thousands of dollars.The quote is from former CIA agent and traitor Aldrich Ames. I have what I suspect is a healthy line officer set of doubts about intel. However, with all the alleged intel reforms, I would have hoped that if the CIA is springing into action that they would do it in a way not to make matters worse, or even not to make themselves the butt of jokes.
The cash was given to the main Somali warlords. The idea was for the warlords to wage a proxy war on behalf of the US on suspected terrorist targets in Somalia.
Initially, I could not tell whether this was raw arrogance or just plain old idiocy on the part of the Americans. Just for clarity's sake, why did they not check with their Kenyan counterparts? Kenya's intelligence is authoritative on matters Somalia.
Kenya's spies would have told the Americans that their proposal is counter-intuitive. They would have advised that anti-US sentiments in Somalia still outweigh any inter-clan animosity.
Of course, word of the CIA's illicit transactions with the Somali factions was bound to leak. It always does. So why didn't someone at the CIA think beyond that?
"Espionage, as carried out by the CIA and others, is a self-serving sham, carried out by career bureaucrats who have managed to deceive several generations of American policy-makers and the public about the necessity and value of their work."
What Aldrich is saying is that the CIA types overrate their importance and spook politicians and the public into letting them have their way.
UPDATE: Nice StrategyPage piece on Somalia here:
Several known al Qaeda operatives have been spotted in southern Somalia. However, Somalia isn't a very good base for al Qaeda, or anyone else. The country has minimal infrastructure. While there are some cell phone providers, operating under the protection of one warlord or another, any phone traffic in or out can be easily tapped by American intelligence agencies. Al Qaeda members have to be careful where they go, for warlords tend to get trigger happy when strangers wander into their territory.
American counter-terrorism forces have not been idle in all this, but they have been secretive. And for good reason. The Somalis are quite willing to let American troops come in and do their fighting for them. However, American Special Forces would rather play by Afghan rules (a few dozen Special Forces troops directing the delivery of smart bombs, followed by local troops exploiting the destruction.) But the Somalis are more fractious and unreliable than Afghan warlords. Backstabbing is considered a national sport in Somalia, and unity a weakness.