interviews: Admiral Johnathan Howe
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Admiral Howe, a retired four-star U.S. Navy Admiral, was the Special Representative to the UN Secretary General (Boutrous-Ghali) for Somalia. Howe was also the former Deputy National Security Advisor in the Bush Adminstration. He currently is President of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

You came into Somalia in March of 1993. You were assigned to come in as the Special Representatives of the Secretary General. At that point there were a lot of changes that were going on with the UN mandate and so forth; what did you see your role as?

Well, when I arrived really what I'd signed up to do was help in the transition from US leadership with the UNITAF forces to a UN force. What happened shortly after I got there was that the Addis Ababa accords were completed among the faction leaders for political settlement, and the UN Security Council passed Resolution 814, which really significantly changed the mandate for the United Nations or for any force that was there from a pure humanitarian effort to one that looked to how the country would be left, basically to put it back on its feet, to help it economically, to help it politically to become a representative government, to help it have security in its own hands, with its own police force and its own judicial system, taking this broken and failed nation and lifting it back to its feet.

So you came in on one premise, and then pretty quickly the premise changed. You had one mandate when you came in, just to get the multinational UN forces together, I assume, and then once the resolution passed things shifted for you, as far as what you felt like you needed to do.

There really had been very little preparation done by the United Nations in anticipation of this resolution. So what we had to do is sit down as a staff -- to the extent that we had a staff -- and really build a strategic plan which looked at all the elements; disarmament, determining political representative government and how you got there through district and regional and finally a national assembly. [We had] to look at the whole economic system and how we could help and perhaps direct the re-construction as well as the emergency relief efforts that were going on. It became a much more complex kind of charter, and it also was for the whole of Somalia, not just the areas of starvation, [a mandate to] help this country which was struggling throughout its borders to make its recovery.

So how did you feel with that awesome task?

Well, I felt that it was a huge task, frankly, to undertake. My biggest immediate problem when I arrived was amazement that we had so little there and so little had been done to anticipate what was needed. There was a major lack of personnel, there was a lack of resources in order to do the job so we needed to get those requirements out. My first message to the Secretary General within about three days of arriving was, "We need help, big time."

Did that mean both troops and staff?

We needed everything. The troop levels was another whole story, but the military was starting to at least organize and get its act together and we hoped that big forces were going to flow in. It turned out that it took a long time for them to get there, where you expected them in a month, they came in three months. But it wasn't just that, it was getting organized for political representation, to have people all over the country that could be helpful when that process [began], the rebuilding of schools and the wiping out of diseases, bringing the health and the water systems back together. So it was kind of a major job.

What was the clan breakdown right now? At this point in March, what would you say is the political climate?

Clanwise, there were basically 15 factions. There were political factions, but in a broad sense they represented the different clans. There were many other clans and many sub-clans; it's a very complex society, [but these particular 15 political factions] had signed the Addis Ababa accords. And of those factions, of course there were some that were more powerful than others, some were small. There were three fairly small groups who were allied with Aidid's clan, the rest of them were either independent or allied with Mahdi in sort of a loose coalition. And that's sort of where they stood, before things got rough.

But when you got there, the Addis Ababa accords had just been passed, right? Had everyone agreed at that point?

Yes, everybody had signed a document, but of course that's only the beginning, when documents get signed. Nonetheless, after a great deal of talk and discussion back and forth and hand waving and so forth and agonizing, they did sign an agreement which we adopted in developing our own UN strategic plan.

How about your military advisors? Who were the people that you personally would work closest to?

I worked very closely with the commander of the UN force, General Bir. He is a Turkish general today, and a very fine one, he's number two in the Turkish armed forces today, and he was the commander of the overall UN force. His deputy was Lt. General Montgomery, who was US, and so I worked with those two very closely.

How complicated was it, having Montgomery wear two hats [as the commander of US forces in Somalia and, concurrently, Deputy Commander of the United Nations' forces for UNOSOM II]?

It was a mechanism that served the purpose of making the US comfortable with the arrangement for the forces that were left behind, the Quick Reaction Force, then the logistic forces. It was a workable arrangement with General Montgomery, he worked very closely with General Bir, they consulted together on everything, they helped each other out, the staffs were fully integrated. So that was not a huge problem. What was a problem, however, was that those US forces had specific requirements; what they did had to be blessed in Washington or at least by the central command. And so therefore it wasn't necessarily a force that the commander General Bir could control, necessarily, or even General Montgomery, if he wanted to do something, it required a lot of constant liaison back and forth with the various commands in the United States.

Do you think that the American public understood that there was a shift that was happening with the US/UN mission?

Well you know this word "nation-building" -- which is essentially what that 814 Resolution has been called -- it's become a pejorative word. But obviously the US had had a big hand in that; the US had led the effort in the Security Council, as I understand it, to put that resolution together and to get it passed, but I think that there was a gap in the understanding of the Congress and the American people, in terms of what that resolution meant and what kind of a commitment then we were making with the passage of that kind of Resolution.

What was your timetable?

We had two time tables. One was this 4th of May date, that's when we ultimately turned over [from] the US UNITAF forces and UNOSOM took charge. In terms of our strategy, we as a staff -- and this is not something dictated from New York -- knew that it would not go on forever, that countries would pour aid into Somalia [only for so long], we thought we had about a two year window. The Addis Ababa accords talked about two years to reach representative government. So we designed a strategic plan that was based on two years in the hope that by that point you would actually have elected governments of some type, some representative government that existed, and things had been glued back together. The institutions had been absolutely disestablished, so there was a lot of rebuilding to do, but optimistically we were hoping we could meet the goal that the Somalis themselves had established in the Addis Ababa accords, two years.

That there should be this kind of work done, maybe disarmament, maybe nation-building, maybe infrastructure, did you think then that more needed to be done?

We were very clear that this was to be a humanitarian mission and that's what we were willing to do -- I'm talking about the Bush administration now -- and that this would be a period of fairly rapid transition to a UN force, UN peace keeping effort to come in and take the place [of US forces.] We also insisted that there would be a chapter VII kind of operation, peace enforcement not just peace keeping; in other words we recognized there could be dangers and hostilities. But the UN Secretary General wanted to do more, he wanted to do disarmament, he wanted to do things that would have long term consequences Our attitude was no "mission creep," in other words we were not willing to go beyond what President Bush said we were going to do. Feed the hungry, correct the starvation, the hundreds of thousands of people that were dying of starvation.

At this point Bush is just a lame duck president, with just eight more weeks left of his term. Was there any other option? Could he have suggested to go for something had long term implications like disarmament? I'm just wondering if there was some kind of restriction, even if he could wish his wildest dreams...

Well, you'd need to ask President Bush that question.

I'm asking just out of actual policy, how could he as a president commit to a policy that the National Security Council, that he himself, that everyone would understand would go up follow into the next administration?

He really did not want to give the next administration another headache or another foreign engagement to worry about, he worried about that. He's a person that really cares, and feels that the transition [between administrations] is a very important phase, and sometimes has been a disastrous phase. He wanted our forces, frankly, out by the time of Inaugural Day. He wanted them to go in quickly; I think ideally he would have had us in and the UN following closely behind taking over, but he was quickly disabused to that because we weren't going to get there soon enough, we weren't going to be able to get established, it was going to be too long for the UN to get there, so he realized that it could not happen by inauguration. And I think probably in those days we underestimated the difficulties of uncoupling yourselves from these situations once you start, and perhaps we overestimated the capabilities of the UN to undertake a complex and difficult and dangerous mission like this one.

There's been a lot of criticism or talk about whether it really was a US operation, the UN operation. Though Bir was the commander in charge, really it was stacked with Americans, and that a lot of the policy-makers had been newly retired generals that were brought back that were US folks, and that the US also had this other side force that had its own autonomy and ability to command troops and make the policy decisions. What's your feeling about that criticism, or commentary; it's not necessarily even a criticism, it's just something that has been said time and again.

It has, and it was said at the time, and there was a lot of sniping from the UN itself because other nations kind of raised this whole question, "How come all these Americans were there?" As the SRSG my concern was I needed to solve problems, and I had hundreds of them and I needed good people to do them, and I didn't care what nation they came from. I spent a huge amount of my time when I got there trying to recruit people from all over the world calling ambassadors, calling friends, of course pushing on the UN personnel system. I called everywhere, trying to get people to come, because we needed people just to come for 6 months. The UN system was overwhelmed, they were just finishing up in Cambodia, the whole Bosnian business was going full time, and [it] was very, very difficult to get the people that they recognized we needed, but simply didn't have. So, we needed a lot of very good people, and of course the US was responsive in many ways.

But in the end was the balance really American?

No, I don't think that's fair. We had something like 68 nations represented on my staff. We had people from every continent.

I want to talk about the circumstances under which there's a weapons inspection at the radio station. Can like give me a little bit of a background into that?

There were a number of things that we were doing in the April/May time frame to really carry out the Addis Ababa accords. There was the peaceful settlements of disputes, committees that had both factional representation and representation by other [groups] of Somalis, such as the women's groups, the elders and others; there was a constitution writing committee that was going to be a charter drafting committee; there was still our disarmament committee. All these committees were being brought into Mogadishu and were meeting just to solve problems.... I think that there some antagonism grew up as the UN started to carry out this Addis Ababa mandate which was also part of the 814 Resolution. And the looking at the facilities where armaments were kept -- there were five authorized facilities that had been in the agreement with Aidid [where] his weapons were stored -- was just one thing that was going on of many things going on at the time. The idea was simply we had some evidence that weapons were being taken out of these areas, and they hadn't been inventoried since February, and so the idea was to simple notify in advance so that there wouldn't be any alarm or undue concern, to send teams from the UN force into these areas to simply look them over.

Did you anticipate that there was going to be friction as a possible result of this?

No, we really didn't. The military that came with us wanted to notify [them] in advance for that very reason; they didn't want anybody to misinterpret, they simply wanted to go, and that was the intent of that message that we simply need to inventory these, we'll walk around with you and count and see what's there.

Who was to give permission?

This was a notification that was made to Aidid, it was addressed to Aidid but it was actually given to his security chief.

So then the fact that there was retaliation was a surprise.

Yeah, the fact that it didn't go smoothly and that there was a lot of hostility was very much unpredicted. In fact, my first report was that it had all gone very smoothly and everything was done. We went on to other things and then suddenly we were interrupted with the news that there was this killing at the feeding centers, that a big ambush at the cigarette factory of the Pakistanis had occurred.

So what ended up happening?

Well, what happened is that there was a major ambush. The inspections were conducted, there a major ambush of Pakistanis that were coming out of this place called the cigarette factory. [It was] a very carefully orchestrated military attack on this Pakistani force that was simply going back to its barracks location. And also the Pakistanis that were helping on a feeding station were attacked, and in addition there were demonstrations and shooting all over town. For example on the compound where the civilians were, where I was, there was a hand grenade thrown over the wall, there was machine gun fire into the compound, there were people shooting sporadically in and out, so a lot of that was going on all over town. There was a major eruption.

And how did you respond?

Well, of course, we sat down immediately, those of us that were clustered in my headquarters, and started to discuss what's going on and what do we do about it. We dispatched someone who had entree with Aidid to go on out and say, "You know, let's stop this, what's going on?" And get things calmed down.

So were you pretty clear that it was Aidid that orchestrated the ambush?

It was very clear to us that it was Aidid. I was very careful not to say it was Aidid until we had more evidence, at least publicly, but in the minds of all of us who were involved in this consultation, because it was so well orchestrated, and as we talked more to the Pakistanis that were involved and others in the ensuing days, it became clear to us that clearly this is something that Aidid had decided to do, that it was in his interests to attack the UN forces.

Why was it in his interests?

Well, I don't think he liked the US being there. He opposed it until the last minute, and I don't think he liked the UN or any other international force being there. I don't think he liked what representative government would mean, because he didn't have the votes. I think this really meant a loss of power to him.

My feeling is that [it was] probably the fact that the UN was actually starting to implement the Resolution 814 and the Addis Ababa accords, even though he'd signed them. In the long term, representative government wasn't really in his interests because he was occupying a lot of territory that he'd gotten through guns, and he didn't have the vote nor did his clan have the votes in a totally representative national assembly. And so I think he saw this as a threat to his power probably, this whole international force. So he would be very happy to have all the international people pack up and leave. And I think he saw that striking a blow to the Pakistanis who had replaced the Americans in South Mogadishu, which was his territory, was a way to get the UN to leave.

So now, the day that it happened, who were the people that composed the group that started to talk about what the UN's next resolution was going to be? Who are the key people that are involved in these discussions?

We had our normal staff meeting that day...

How big is that?

That might have involved 20 or 30 people being there, then we retreated to a smaller group, which were basically the division heads, the humanitarian division, the political division, all their representatives, and the UN agencies, UN, UNICEF and UNHCR, the development group and others were all [there].

How about back in New York? I mean Boutros Ghali and Madeleine Albright. What's their role in this and how does the communication flow?

First they have to find out what's going on, and of course that's my job to inform them. One of our immediate tasks was to inform them that we had a problem. I was talking to now Secretary General Kofi Annan -- who I talked to daily, frankly, during the whole time that I was in Somalia -- and his staff, a French woman named Linda Elizabeth Lindemeyer, who was a wonderful person, who was really responsible for Somalia activities from the UN, and then later on I talked to the Secretary General. And we simply were talking about -- and of course we were writing messages as well to put this in writing -- what had happened to the best extent that we could tell, and then of course about what should we do about it.

What was the basic text of the resolution?

The UN Secretary of the Security Council went into emergency session. This had happened on a Saturday, and Sunday New York time they passed Resolution 837, which basically said three things: arrest the perpetrators of these crimes against the Pakistanis, disarm this city (obviously you've got way more weapons than you possibly anticipated because of all this shooting that went on against the Pakistanis), and put a stop to this vitriolic propaganda that is coming through various media means of the Somalis, obviously aimed at Aidid's radio station. So that in essence was the mandate that came out late Sunday, our time, from the UN Security Council.

And then it's your role to execute it, with your staff. Is that right?

Yes, of course, that exactly was our job. It also asked for more armament and things that we needed in order to deal with a much more dangerous and difficult situation than people anticipated -- armored personnel carriers and other items of equipment that the military needed.

I know that there was talk at one point of actually naming Aidid as the perpetrator...

Right.

Can you talk a little bit about that?

Well, I wasn't involved in that because I'm here with my hands full in Mogadishu, and that went on in New York. As I understand it, the draft resolution had his name in [it] but I wasn't in on [the drafting], we simply got the outcome.

And so, a couple of weeks later, there's the infamous $25,000 dollar reward that's put out for the capture of Aidid.

Let me straighten you out on this particular wanted poster because I know that there's been a lot of discussion about it. [That was a] very tough decision that we weighed back and forth; at least, I listened to a lot of advice and I certainly discussed this with New York a number of times [about] whether to name [Aidid] as somebody that we felt should be detained. And for a lot of reasons on the 17th of June, I announced that Aidid was somebody that we felt should be detained for public safety, the safety of the Somalis and for the safety of the international people that were present in Somalia. The reason I'd come to that conclusion is that we had progressed far enough in the investigation that we were starting to be convinced that he really was responsible. I didn't want to say anything; there was huge pressure in the press, "When are you going to name Aidid? Why aren't you arresting him?" We wanted to do this very, very carefully.

Another thing was that on the 13th of June there had been a rally in the kilometer-four circle area. Shots had been fired, and we had intelligence, pretty solid evidence, that there had been firing into the crowd by Aidid's people in order to swell the number of casualties and make this look like the United Nations to the public. They were very clever in their public relations efforts, their media handling, [trying] to show that this was the UN going berserk. This bothered me in the sense that I felt that if this man would kill his own people in order to accomplish his goals, he really was a menace to safety and he really ought to come off the streets, he ought to be detained. He needed to go through a legal process. So, it was about this 17th June day that it was decided and announced that he needed to be accountable. We also wanted the message in the political process that said we're not against his faction, we're not against his clan, it's just the individuals responsible.

What happened is about two or three weeks later -- so this presses us even into July -- our military came and said, "You know, nobody on the street believes us, when we say that we want to detain Aidid, because you're not providing any cash, there are no rewards for providing information to where he is, there's nothing in this for us, you're not serious." They were saying we're not really credible unless we offer some kind of reward, and of course for terrorists of anything throughout the world, these kinds of rewards for information are provided, so then I began a process of talking to the UN, because I didn't have $25,000 that I had control of, that I could pay out in case somebody did in fact give us the information that led to his detention. So a process went on and we asked the US for money because the US has billions of dollars that could be allotted for terrorism. The US refused but the UN eventually gave us the green light that yes, we could do it, and then some leaflets were distributed that said he was wanted.

By naming Aidid, was it basically really creating a war on him?

Well, to go back to Resolution 837, it said arrest "those responsible" and bring them forward for trial, which would be a responsibility of the UN itself in New York. That path had already been identified for us in terms of what we needed to do, there needed to be some responsible accounting for what had happened. We'd had you know 22, 26 people killed and another 55 wounded in this event. These were just people carrying out their lawful assignments, and they were assaulted, and so something needed to be done. And in my view we couldn't simply ignore that, we needed to handle that in a responsible way. I don't know if I'm answering your question.

Well, I guess even maybe a better question is did you feel that Aidid was really declaring war on the UN by having this attack?

Yes, I thought on the 5th of June he had decided that getting rid of the UN and certainly harming the Pakistanis was a way to do this, that this was a considered, deliberate decision that had been made against the United Nations.

The United Nations worked to see if there was a way to do this without using force, because we did not want to use force and we knew there were great problems ahead if we had to use force, and so we tried to see if there could be a discussion between us about how do we resolve this peacefully, which could have been done in many ways. Resolution 837 could have been carried out [peacefully]. When that didn't seem to be in the offing, then we felt that the alternatives of not responding for us, in our own mission throughout Somalia, our own credibility and also for peacekeepers around the world, if you could just let this kind of a vicious assault happen and you just forgot about it, or you just said, "Well, we'll forgive and forget," that this was not the right way to go. I think that we could have returned very quickly to civil war in Somalia if the UN had simply had no strength in this a moment to respond to this situation.

One would understand why some action needed to be taken, yet does this formal recognition by the UN that Aidid's going to be captured then create another host of problems for you?

A lot of just practical problems needed to be dealt with -- Where do we put him? How do we do it? What is the legal process that we'll follow? We [had to do] a lot of planning, particularly when the Ranger force came in and the prospects were greater than they were initially. If [the military commanders] didn't have a force like the Ranger Delta force we eventually got several months later, they really couldn't do a surgical arrest. They just didn't have the troops that were trained to do that; unless he fell into our hands by some miracle, weren't really capable of accomplishing that mission. That's why so very early on we asked for that kind of a force to have that capability, and also to deal with kidnapping which was a standard Somali way to dealing with things, to kidnap a relief worker or kidnap a UN person, and take them off and then hold them hostage. We wanted to have a response for that, so we asked very on early on, as early as the 8th of June, for that kind of capability to come to us.

What was the July 12th mission all about, the Abdi House?

The July 12th mission. What happened there was that the military had disrupted Aidid's headquarters with a very well done five nation operation. Moroccans, Italians, French, Americans and Pakistanis. That had disrupted, for a while, the Aidid attacks on the UN, but they simply started to regroup in other places. We had a number of incidents that went on after as we were going in to various clandestine ammunition and weapons storage areas and eliminating those.... We had the assassination of six of our workers that distributed [our newspaper]. We had a little newspaper; it's an oral society, not everybody read, but we tried to distribute it around the country, and 6 of the workers that were coming to the force compound to pick up their copies of the newspapers to distribute were stopped and gangland-style murdered. This was a big threat to Somalis who worked loyally and faithfully for the United Nations. These were obviously Aidid's people. Then there were a whole bunch of ambushes going on of convoys trying to go out and work with justices and do other missions outside of the compound. There were shootings going on all over and mortars coming in on the compounds.

So the military came and proposed that the next thing they needed to do was attack the Abdi house. This had become the center for planning these various operations around town, the ambushes, the attacks on the port, the attacks on various facilities, the mortar raids, and so on. This was kind of a command control headquarters, and so the UN military came with a proposal that this was the next area that they wanted to attack.

So now do you have to agree with it, in order for them to go forward? How does it work?

Well, these kind of discussions do happen, and that's why they come to get ultimate permission to do that. Also since this involved the Quick Reaction Force they went through their Washington chain as well because this had to be approved as well by the United States. But from my standpoint when I was first told about it, we were very concerned that it wasn't going to involve -- which every other operation we had done up to that point involved -- warnings and then letting the civilians come on out. When we first heard this proposal, we said, "You gotta go back and figure out some way to let people out of that building." Anyway discussions went on and it turned out that the only way they could do it and the only people who were willing to do it were the US Quick Reaction Force. We'd gotten to the point where we needed to do something because of the attacks against the United Nations to get the thing righted and to get back to reality in terms of the military side of the equation, and hopefully, with all these military things that we did, provide incentives for discussion and negotiation to continue.

So what happened?

Well, what happened is that this headquarters was attacked, and they were holding a meeting at the time. Forces actually went into the building and out quickly. Some people were taken prisoner and brought out, and some people unfortunately were killed in the operation, that is, on the Somali side that had been in the building. But the key ring leaders associated with these operations and these ambushes and attacks on the port, by the effort of the intelligence that we had, were in fact there, involved in that meeting.

So those folks, were they taken out of the building?

Well, those that were alive and moving around, some of them were removed and taken out by the soldiers. Others were killed, some were wounded.

Was the building bombed?

It was hit by a helicopter rocket. It wasn't bombed, we didn't have airplanes with bombs, but we had missiles from attack helicopters.

So at this point this has been reduced to almost "tit for tat." There was lots that's happening against the UN troops and then this is a reaction to that, right?

In a sense that's fair to say. I mean there were a number of events going on and we felt that something else needed to be done to keep this thing in somewhat of a balance.

Did you feel at this point that things were spinning out of control?

No, I don't think we felt they were out of control, but they weren't going in the kind of direction that we wanted them. A lot of our programs were going very, very well, particularly the political efforts being made around the country, humanitarian not as well because some of the humanitarian groups were reluctant to come back in the country because of the dangers. Frankly, we didn't want to use force but when you're being attacked by mortars and so forth, you've got to go out and disrupt those sources of attacks or else many more people are going to be killed.

Did the use of force end up creating a bad feeling with the Somalis?

When you have to use force in a situation, you certainly do cause problems. People, even if they don't like Aidid, they have sort of a clan loyalty, [and they feel that something has to be done in retaliation.]

We found what Aidid was doing, which was pretty clever, is that he was starting to increase the number of roadblocks and the number of ambushes that were occurring. We had a big incident that occurred in September where our people -- the Pakistanis -- were simply clearing a road, one of the primary access roads, and people fired [at them] from all sides. A favorite Aidid tactic was to bring women into the mix, so you have women and children in front; he even joked about this, it perplexes the soldier in terms of, "Well I can't shoot a woman, and I can't shoot children" and the gunmen are firing behind On the 17th of June, the Moroccans had been really viciously assaulted by this particular tactic. We'd seen it and started to recognize it.

But, of course, when you protect yourselves and you protect your soldiers from being killed and you have to use helicopters, then ultimately there are going to be people [killed] that you would hope would not be killed in that fight, even though they've presented themselves as fighters. You may militarily win something, but really you're losing politically because all of these events simply add to a question about what's going on, why are you having to kill Somalis? And of course it was very regrettable that we did.

Personally, how were you feeling at this point? You came in in March, this is something that you had been thinking about for a year at that point, by that point as far as policy and what can be done and what's possible, and come June, there's the attack Pakistanis, your people, and then it keeps on disintegrating. What are you thinking, what are you feeling at this point?

Well, we're feeling that we continued to need more help. The military plans often couldn't move because the right forces hadn't arrived and the commander didn't have enough forces of the right kind. For example in the northeastern part of the country we simply couldn't even get a token force up there to give to them. That would have made a difference, it would have made them feel more secure, and it would have helped the humanitarian flow come in behind it. So we were really pushing for resources. We needed the military forces that had been pledged.

We started to see the problems of lack of training of some of the militaries; the inability to go out and, for example, take care of ambushes at night, or mortar firing, just because certain troops didn't have that training. They needed heavy equipment to have confidence that they could operate in the urban center. It's very difficult to operate in a city, if there's anybody shooting at you from around a corner behind a building, for any kind of a force, no matter how well trained. So all these things were happening militarily. Politically we were making quite a bit of progress not on a negotiation with Aidid, although we were talking constantly to sub-clans and also his representatives and other people, we were working with the religious leaders, trying all the different things that we could but those were not coming together necessarily.

So at that point you're still trying to get into negotiations with Aidid, is that right?

We always wanted to see if we had come to a moment where we could have a peaceful resolution of 837. We always held that out.

This may sound strange, but if you have a notice out that you're going to capture him, how is a negotiation possible?

Well, this is a good question. We weren't going to negotiate with him directly, but either through the... Ethiopians and Eritrians who were trying to help, or through our direct contacts. We could meet with some of his people, and we even got to a point later on in which we were discussing who could be there at the table and so forth. Of course, it was in our interest to guarantee the safety of anybody that would come to these kinds of discussion. We got to the point [later] where we said we may have to call off these arrest operations that were being run by the Rangers and Delta because we had gotten to a point where there was genuine reciprocation in terms of interest in working this thing out peacefully. We never got quite to that point. But certainly it was in our minds.

So now the Task Force Rangers are getting ready to come in August. How aware of you of that fact that they're going to be entering?

Well, remember that on the 8th of June just after the June 5 incident we had asked for a force capable to do that kind of a job, because we felt that was part of the mandate of Resolution 837, and necessary because of kidnapping. So we had been lobbying and hoping that either a force from the United States or from some other country would give us that added capability that we felt we needed. We'd been asking for these people for a long time. We had almost given up on getting the US forces because we had been turned down, when there was an incident in early August in which the first Americans that were lost while I was there, when a jeep was blown up by a remote detonated bomb. That was around the 8th of August, and I think that got some attention. It certainly got my attention, but it got attention in Washington as well, and may have been something that pushed this decision to finally send this force that we'd been asking for for so long.

The military commanders were delighted when we got the word that this force was coming. For two reasons, one, it would help us if we had a chance of arresting Aidid [to do so] without a lot of casualties. These were the people that could do it for us. Secondly, it would add leverage that would make peaceful negotiations perhaps possible. It certainly would put the pressure on Aidid's followers and Aidid to look at other alternatives besides trying to fight and attack the United Nations. And in fact it did, it brought pressure. As soon as they started to arrive, and it was clear they were coming, then there was some much more genuine interest in seeing if we could resolve 837 in a peaceful way.

Were you aware of Montgomery's request for armor and for M1 tanks?

General Montgomery had been very concerned about mining and remote detonated bombs and ambushes and other concerns about logistics, mobility in the city, and felt that he needed heavier forces. I can remember on the very first night that the Ranger Delta force, which had been shelled upon its arrival, was going to respond to that. I sat with General Montgomery and the liaison with the Ranger force, kind of following the operation, and he told me, "Great news. We're going to get these four heavier forces that we've asked for. " And we were very pleased this special force was here and he'd gotten some pretty good indications [that] this other force that he'd requested was coming. So this was in late August; we were very, very pleased about that and certainly aware that that request was in the process.

So then when did you know that the request wasn't going to be honored?

Well this was a bit later, several weeks later, I don't remember the exact date, but this wasn't the first request that we'd made that we didn't get a response to.

Did you feel that this was now escalating into more of a combat situation?

Well, I felt that that request was very valid, that he needed better protection in order to get the convoys, including the humanitarian convoys, [through]. I mean, they were preventing and ambushing humanitarian convoys.... And so he needed the ability to move forces, and it was a heavy urban area. And so I was certainly fully behind that request.

How did you learn about the October 3rd raid?

Well, I learned about it in a different way. I had been sent by the secretary general on a mission to Ethiopia, and I was flying home on that Sunday and coming into Mogadishu, and as we were approaching they told us [we were going] into a holding pattern, we couldn't land. That was my first inkling that something was going on. We of course [eventually] could land, then I could see the helicopters in operation. I got on the phone to my chief of staff and said, "What's going on?" Obviously I got to the headquarters as fast as I could, and got into the situation at that point, and of course [made] sure that New York was being appropriately informed.

So around what time is that you were getting to the airport?

It's probably four or five in the afternoon.

So therefore are you then involved with helping and planning a relief column?

I saw my mission as first of all to inform my superiors in the United Nations, as well as to do everything possible to help General Montgomery to accomplish what he needed to do. So I certainly spent some time over there observing him in operation, and seeing how I could be helpful, sitting around this table as he was directing his commanders, particularly the UN part of it which was to get the heavier armor that we needed to get into that very tough situation in Mogadishu, that very tough area. We could be helpful there as well if there was any problem in terms of nations. Actually the response was very good by the nations. He had an immediate response from the Malaysians, as well as the Pakistanis, who by then actually had some tanks and some heavier armor. And to their credit the Italians who are now out of town but had armor and the Indians who had just arrived and were not even planning to come into Mogadishu but were planning to go to the Baidoa area, also were contacted and also were willing to make their tanks available, if these others fell through and we needed to make a second thrust in order to rescue the force. So I was shown all, [I watched] Montgomery do this and organize the force, and I thought he did it in a very professional, careful way, so that we wouldn't have another disaster on our hands but could also get there to meet the urgent need of the Rangers.

He how does he know what's going on? Is it through radio?

He's getting relayed from General Garrison, and various reports, plus the Quick Reaction Force had made efforts to try to get in to be the relief force and they were unsuccessful in that, so he was getting different kinds of communication reports on the radios and telephones.

There was some talk, and we have been doing some interviewing, that part of the reason there wasn't a backup plan as far as having the other nations on alert when the Rangers went in was because there was getting to be some difference of opinion about how to approach this situation with capturing Aidid.

The special forces have their own ways of operating and protecting themselves. They're really the best in the world at this business. And so there's a certain independence of action in terms of how they go about their business, whether the suspicions that existed about some of the motives of other nations -- and this did go on at the military headquarters -- was part of their calculus or not, I don't know. You'd really have to ask General Garrison that.

Did you hear about friction with...

Oh, I was very much aware of it. When you put together 30 different nations... with a force of this type that hasn't trained together, hasn't worked together, is not part of a kind of common alliance. That suddenly they're thrust together, they have whole different cultural background, they have different political masters, their motives for being there are all different and may have nothing to do with what the UN resolution says or why those particular countries donate their troops. But [many] countries are reluctant to let loose of their troops and truly put them under a unified UN command. Instead they're getting calls from headquarters saying, "do this" or "don't do that" or what we call micro management from 5,000 miles away. This was endemic. And people didn't show up on time. People left, or this country didn't show up or their forces left, they did all kinds of things. So this is a nightmare for the UN commander to command his troops. It's fine if everybody's in a static situation, cooperating and you're kind of overseeing some humanitarian food distribution, [but] when it gets to people actually trained to attack you and you may have to maneuver your forces or you need help from this or that, it becomes a much more difficult situation. There were lots of problems, there were countries that said, "We don't do windows," basically, I mean, "We won't do that."

You were talking about the fact that it was really actually successful to have the Rangers in coming in, just as Carter was actually making some diplomatic negotiations. I guess at first [Carter was talking on his] own initiative, but then I guess Clinton had gone along and agreed with him. My question is really about having a two track policy. Do you feel that it makes sense to try to heighten pressure on Aidid, planning on capturing him or bringing in the special forces, and then also trying to pursue a diplomatic approach?

I'm not commenting particularly on a special initiative by President Carter or someone like that. But as a general proposition in these sort of complex situations, in which you hope you'd never have to use force, I think you always have to have a peace track that is available, and hopefully you can persuade the right people that are causing the problem, or at least their followers, to follow that track and to get on that track. I certainly think that the force that was sent in in August, the Ranger Delta force, provided [that] pressure because I think there was a real concern perhaps on Aidid's part that he would be captured. These were serious forces, they were very capable and therefore this alternative of finding this peaceful resolution became more attractive.

In retrospect, are there specific things that you felt that you would wanted to be done differently, especially on some of the dates that we have discussed?

Well, there's first a general proposition I think that's important and that is that if you're going to undertake an operation like the US effort or the UN effort in Somalia, you need to provide the resources that match the mandate. In other words, it needs to be front loaded for success. You need to have the people and the resources, you need to have the agricultural and school support, you need the political support, the radios and all of the different things that go into trying to put a nation back together.

The Somalis desperately needed to be shown that the world cared and there was support coming. I remember the example of the police force, and here was a group all around the country that wanted to do their jobs, these were a pretty professional people, but they didn't have trucks, they didn't have radios, they didn't have guns. They [didn't] have the resources they needed or the training to do the job that was expected of them. And there was a resource just waiting to become productive with a little bit of help from the outside, and yet we had endless bureaucratic groups and survey studies, and people sitting on their hands and things not happening.

Another thing is that if you're going to make this kind of a commitment, it really needs to be in your national interests, or at least compatible with your interests and values as a society. And you have to recognize that whether it's Somalia or Bosnia or Haiti or whatever, there are risks associated with these operations, and you hope it goes wonderfully and nobody is ever hurt. But if you go into a Chapter VII UN operation you are recognizing that there is potential for hostilities and a need for enforcement may be there, and you need to be committed to that, and so do all the nations that are involved. They can't kind of pull against each other, they have to work together, and that means at the highest policy level. Ministers need to meet and agree, and if you come to one of these events -- you mentioned a date, June 5 -- that's a major kind of turning point, you need to assess it and say, "All right, are we still right with this, do we still support it? And if we are, then let's really support it."

Do you feel like you didn't have that opportunity to do the things that you wanted to do?

Oh, absolutely, we did not. We just were pleading constantly for the resources to help people. Our mission out in the field was to help the nation of Somalia get back on its feet. And at the least to help people from not starving, to get the basic systems back, water and health systems. The political process also needed to be carried out. And you need the kind of resources to do it. And I think perhaps one problem for our nation, the US, in its support of this is that it wanted to have it both ways, it certainly wanted to be successful but it didn't want to do very much in the process. Now the US did a lot, and I don't mean to minimize what the US did because it did a lot, but you have to realize that the UN is a weak organization, it's very dependent on nations, and it needs help.... I think it takes the leadership of countries like the United States to say, "Yeah, we're going to make this work and we're going to get behind the UN." The kind of force we got after October 3 that came in for 6 months which wasn't allowed to do much was actually the kind of force that would have probably been a deterrent to an Aidid or anybody else that really didn't see the UN succeeding in its interests. It probably would have prevented that from happen[ing], and made that peaceful track work.


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