Drone operations over Somalia pose danger to air traffic, U.N. says
The skies over Somalia have become so congested with drones that the unmanned aircraft pose a danger to air traffic and potentially violate a long-standing arms embargo against the war-torn country, according to United Nations officials.
In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refugee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital.
|Let's just grant that the U.N. report may be a tad hysterical and overblown...|
Although U.N. investigators did not directly pin the blame for the mishaps on the United States, the report noted that at least two of the unmanned aircraft appeared to be U.S.-manufactured and suggested that Washington had been less than forthcoming about its drone operations in Somalia.
The U.S. military has conducted clandestine
|Not that we're particularly obligated to be forthcoming, especially to the U.N....|
drone flights over Somalia for years as part of a broader counterterrorism campaign against al-Shabab, a group of
|'Clandestine' means we generally aren't forthcoming, you see...|crazed Islamist terrorists fighters that controls much of the country and is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Although the drone missions have long been an open secret, the Obama administration acknowledged last month for the first time that it “is engaged in a robust range of operations to target al-Qaeda and associated forces, including in Somalia.”
The number of military drone flights over Somalia has increased substantially since the Air Force opened a new base last year in next-door Ethiopia. The military opened a similar base in late 2009 in the Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago off the eastern coast of Somalia.
|And we shouldn't have acknowledged even that...|
Both of those operations complement a much bigger U.S. military drone base in Djibouti, a small country on Somalia’s northwestern border on the Horn of Africa.
|Both operations previously revealed by WaPo...|
In recent years, small teams of Special Operations forces and CIA operatives have gradually stepped up secret missions inside Somalia to rescue hostages and hunt for al-Shabab leaders.
The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992, although it has carved out an exception for an African Union military force that has been battling al-Shabab and propping up a transitional Somali government based in Mogadishu.
The U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia, which prepared the new report,
said that it considered the use of drones in that country “a potential violation of the arms embargo” because the aircraft are “exclusively military” in nature.
|And which claimed all of its per-diems...|
The Pentagon has supplied several small, hand-launched surveillance drones, known as Ravens, to the African Union troops in Somalia. But any other drones — such as the Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft that the U.S. military flies at higher altitudes — would “be operating in violation of the embargo,” said Matthew Bryden, a Canadian official and coordinator for the U.N. Monitoring Group.
|The arms embargo meant that people wouldn't sell the Somalis, and especially al-Shabab, arms. It doesn't say anything about us using drones, or supplying drones to our pals who might use them there on a peacekeeping (actually peacemaking) mission.|
Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the State Department declined to comment on U.S. drone operations in Somalia.
|Only if we sold them to al-Shabab...|
The U.S. military has plans to send more surveillance drones to Somalia. Earlier this month, the Pentagon notified Congress that it will give eight additional hand-launched Ravens to Kenyan forces deployed to Somalia as part of the African Union mission.
The U.N. report said that unmanned aircraft now “routinely operate in Somali airspace.” Confirmations are elusive, however, because it can be difficult for people on the ground to distinguish between drones and regular planes flying high overhead.
|Which also doesn't violate the embargo, since we're giving them to the Kenyans and not to the Somalis.|
The United Nations said it had documented 64 unauthorized flights of drones, fighter jets or attack helicopters in Somalia since June 2011.
|Unauthorized according to whom?|
Posted by: Steve White