Attack on Somalia: The struggling country needs food, not missiles
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In another chapter in U.S. military involvement in Somalia, four Tomahawk missiles were fired Thursday from a Navy ship off the coast and struck the village of Dusa Marreb.
Killed, according to American sources, was Aden Hashi Ayro, a leader of the Somali militia Shabab, as well as 10 or more others. U.S. sources immediately described Mr. Ayro as a key al-Qaida leader, involved in various anti-foreign and anti-American actions in East Africa, and a terrorist.
The attack on Dusa Marreb came during the war in Somalia between forces of the former Islamic Courts Union government and those of the unpopular "transitional" government, which is backed by Ethiopian occupation forces. The Ethiopians, supported by American air power and intelligence, invaded Somalia in December 2006 and stayed on. Somalia has had no working government since 1991.
Its population of 8 million is under a new threat of famine, brought about by drought and high world food prices. It is expected that 3.5 million will need food aid in the next few months to avoid starvation.
There is no reason to believe that the death of Aden Hashi Ayro will alter this situation. Although reportedly not a nice person, he was one of hundreds of Shabab fighters.
Some speculate that the attack was carried out to dispel the impression that U.S. efforts against al-Qaida around the world are not enjoying notable success. After all, the counterterrorism situation in Pakistan under the new government is "iffy." The Taliban is regaining ground in Afghanistan. And the transitional government in Somalia backed by Ethiopia and the United States has little popular support.
Tomahawk missiles cost $600,000 each. It is very questionable if a $2.4 million Tomahawk attack on a Somali village -- even if it killed an anti-American leader -- was a better use of the money than providing more food aid.
First Published May 4, 2008 12:00 am