War and famine
Long-time dictator Siad Barre is forced out of Mogadishu in January, 1991.
Conflict between the Somali National Movement (SNM), Aidid's party, and
other factions causes clan infighting, leading to famine
and lawlessness throughout portions of the country. An estimated 300,000
Somalis die of starvation during the year of civil war that followed Barre's
Warring faction leaders sign a ceasefire agreement, which includes provisions
to allow a UN monitoring mission into Somalia to oversee arrangements for
providing humanitarian assistance.
Military Observers to Somalia
UN Security Council approves UN operation in Somalia, pursuant to the ceasefire
agreement. In July, 50 unarmed UN military observers are deployed to Mogadishu
to monitor the ceasefire.
Provide Relief (United Nations Operation in Somalia -- UNOSOM I)
UN humanitarian relief effort begins.
President George Bush launches Somalia intervention
Deteriorating security prevents the UN mission from delivering food and
supplies to the starving Somalis. Relief flights are looted upon landing, food
convoys are hijacked and aid workers assaulted. The UN appeals to its members
to provide military forces to assist the humanitarian operation.
With only weeks left in his term as president, George Bush responds to the UN
request, proposing that US combat troops lead an international UN force to
secure the environment for relief operations. On December 5, the UN accepts his
offer, and Bush orders 25,000 US troops into Somalia. On December 9th, the
first US Marines land on the beach.
Bush assures the American people and troops involved that this is not an open
ended commitment; the objective is to quickly provide a secure environment so
that food can get through to the starving Somalis, and then the operation will
be turned over to the UN peacekeeping forces. He assures the public that he
plans for the troops to be home by Clinton's inauguration in January.
This US-led United Task Force (UNITAF) is dubbed "Operation Restore Hope."
Clinton, like Bush, is anxious to scale down the American military presence in
Somalia and let the United Nations take charge.
The UN organized Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia, held in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, results in a resolution among faction leaders, including
Aidid, to end the violence.
takeover; "nation building" (UNOSOM II)
In March, the UN authorizes UNOSOM II, a UN operation with expanded enforcement
power, whose mandate stressed "the crucial importance of disarmament" of the
Somali people. This UN-led mission was to take over from the US-led UNITAF. The
expanded operation's new mission goes beyond simply providing humanitarian
relief, calling for the UN to facilitate "nation building," to get Somalia back
on its feet by restoring law and order, shoring up the infrastructure, and
helping to set up processes for establishing a representative government. By
the end of March, 28 different nations send contingents to Somalia in support
of the new militarized operation. The US officially hands over the command to
the UN on May 4.
While Clinton supported this expansion of the UN's mandate, he simultaneously
ordered the number of US troops in Somalia to be reduced and replaced by UN
troops. By June, only 1,200 US combat soldiers remained in Somalia, with 3,000
of Pakistani troops; the hunt for Aidid
During an inspection of a Somali arms weapons storage site, 24 Pakistani
soldiers are ambushed and massacred. The next day, the UN Security Council
issues an emergency resolution calling for the apprehension of "those
responsible" for the massacre. Though Aidid is not specifically named in the
resolution, it is, in effect, a call to apprehend him. Twelve days later,
Admiral Howe orders Aidid's arrest,
offering a $25,000 reward for information
leading to his apprehension.
In the aftermath of the June 5 massacre, Admiral Howe first requests a
counterterrorist hostage rescue force from Washington because they he they
needed more extensive military capability to deal with the escalating violence.
No such troops are forthcoming until Task Force Ranger is deployed in August.
on Aidid's strongholds
US and UN troops begin attacking various targets in Mogadishu associated with
Aidid, including a radio station and ammunition depots. The peacekeepers are
now at war with Aidid.
In a major escalation, American Cobra helicopters attack a house in south
Mogadishu where a group of clan leaders are meeting, destroying the building
with TOW missiles and cannon fire and killing a number of Somalis. Four
western journalists who had gone to investigate are beaten to death by an angry
sighting of Aidid
killed by land mines
Four American military police are killed by a remote detonated land mine set
off by Somalis. Two weeks later, six more US soldiers are wounded in a similar
attack. This gets attention in America, and shortly thereafter, Task Force
Ranger is deployed to Somalia.
Special Forces arrive in Somalia
US Army Task Force Ranger flies into Mogadishu -- 440 elite troops from Delta
Force and the U.S. Rangers. Led by Major General William F. Garrison, their
mission is to capture Aidid. They begin pursuing Aidid and his top
lieutenants, with sporadic success.
negotiating with Aidid
In the midst of the manhunt, the Clinton administration opens a secret
initiative to negotiate with Aidid. Former president Jimmy Carter, who had a
previous relationship with Aidid, volunteers to act as intermediary. The US
military commanders in Mogadishu are not informed about this new initiative.
for armored reinforcements denied
In a decision that is later highly criticized, US Defense Secretary Les Aspin
denies requests from General Montgomery for armored reinforcements, despite
support for Montgomery's request from General Colin Powell. Aspin says that he
did not want to create the appearance that the US was increasing forces in
Somalia at a time when they were trying to reduce military presence. He later
concedes,"Had I known at the time what I knew after the events of Sunday,
[October 3]. I would have made a very different decision." In December, he is
forced to resign.
Task Force Ranger's assault on the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu, in search of
Aidid, results in a seventeen hour bloody battle in which 18 US soldiers are
killed and 84 are wounded.
response: withdraw troops
President Clinton decides to cut his losses. He sends substantial combat troops
as short term reinforcements, but declares that American troops are to be fully
withdrawn from Somalia by March 31. The hunt for Aidid is abandoned, and US
representatives are sent to resume negotiations with the warlord. Two weeks
later, in a letter to President Clinton, General Garrison accepts full
responsibility for what happened in the battle.
CWO Mike Durant, who had been taken captive by Aidid's men during the battle,
is released along with a Nigerian prisoner.
US forces leave Somalia
Approximately 20,000 UN forces remain, composed primarily of Asian and African
UN withdrawal from Somalia
Aidid dies in hospital from bullet wounds received during an outbreak of
fighting in Mogadishu.