WASHINGTON: Friday’s Navy SEAL raid aimed at capturing the Somali terrorist known as Ikrimah is a glimpse at the future of American warfare, one where a small US combat presence is boosted by widescale support to local forces who bear the brunt of the fighting.
The raid itself came like a blitzkrieg from the blue to outsiders. But for the American military and its African allies the headline-grabbing attack was just one part of a low-profile, years-long effort. It’s a war the Pentagon’s top counterterrorist, assistant secretary of Defense Michael Sheehan, has publicly called a model for operations across Africa.
It’s an approach informed by Afghanistan and Iraq, especially the latter years of each campaign where the US increasingly let locals take the lead. But Adm. William McRaven, head of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and his boss Barack Obama want to avoid that painful first step where US ground troops bear the brunt of the fighting and the dying. Instead, the new strategy emphasizes a “small footprint” with no American boots on the ground in the combat zone from the beginning – except for a few special occasions, like Friday, when SOCOM comes in fast and hard.