US, Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Kenyan troops stand at attention during a joint exercise.

US, Ugandan, Tanzanian, and Kenyan troops stand at attention during a joint exercise.

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.


  • Don Bacon

    The Kenya attack on, and occupation of, Somalia led to blowback at Westgate Mall and probably more to come.

    The recent botched Somalia raid, which the targets seemed to advance warning of, has probably emboldened al-Shabab and boosted recruitment.

    The Libya raid kidnapping a guy living openly in Tripoli by some people, we don’t know who, worsened US relations with Libya (of course).

    It’s Newton’s Third Law — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. (Maybe not equal.)

    So what’s so great about that? Other than giving SOCOM more media promotion, better publicity and a bigger budget, that is. Actually there’s nothing good about it because it represents the illegal military intervention into other countries that elevates the threats against Americans and America, not reduces them. Governments in civilized countries don’t generally act that way.

    • Don Bacon

      See, the local governments subjected to these US attacks understandably resent them because it violates their sovereignty. How would the US government react to such a foreign incursion? In Pakistan the drone attacks have turned the Pakistani people, supposedly US allies, completely against the US. Completely against the US because it violates their sovereignty and kills innocents, many of them.

      It’s not working in Afghanistan. President Karzai is upset (still) that the US is bombing villages and killing women and children, as he was over the special forces abuses that got them kicked out of Wardak province. Of course he is upset and it’s affecting future US military plans to stay in Afghanistan forever.

      today’s news:
      Afghanistan’s president says disagreements over issues such as sovereignty are still impeding a security deal with the United States. Karzai condemned what he described as repeated violations of Afghan sovereignty by the U.S. and allies.

  • rappini pasta

    I’m definitely no Sun Tzu but if you’re going to go into battle why wouldn’t you go to win it?

  • dt

    Are the Kenyan soldiers we’re training the same kind who looted the Westgate Mall after the terrorists were killed? Or does Mr Freedberg think the reports of looting are false? If Kenyan soldiers looted the Westgate Mall, what does that say about their trainability?