interviews: general thomas montgomery
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Montgomery was Commander of the US Forces and Deputy UN Force Commander, Somalia (March 1993 - Mar 1994). He wrote a comprehensive After-Action Report with the collaboration of other participants in the Somalia Operation. The report has yet to be declassified.

Could you explain the overall command structure under which you were operating in Somalia?

As Deputy UN Commander, I was General Bir's assistant and we worked for Admiral Howe, who was the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. So that's the UN chain of command.

And then I wore another hat which was Commander, US Forces Somalia. Now in that capacity, I reported directly to the Commander in Chief of the US Central Command, General Hoar, who was in Tampa, Florida.The US Contingency Force, a Quick Reaction Force, purely US, was under my tactical control not my operational control. There was a memorandum of agreement on how that force could be employed--basically only for emergencies, or beyond the capabilities of the UN Forces....And I, as the US Commander, had control of that.

Anything else that that force did, I required the approval of US CINCENT. For instance, if the Quick Reaction Force participated in any of the subsequent operations that the UN Force conducted. I would submit a plan for that operation to Florida, to US CINCENT.

... I didn't have operational control. That remained with the CINC. I had tactical control, and that means I could make decisions for tactical employment of the Quick Reaction Force and any of the Forces that subsequently joined us.

What was Somalia like when you got there ? What was your expectation when you arrived?

I didn't know what to expect, I was sitting at my desk on a Friday morning in the Pentagon.... And I received a call at seven in the morning saying I had been selected by the Chief of Staff of the Army to become the Deputy UN Commander and the US Forces Commander in Somalia.

All of this happened in about a three-week process, so I didn't have time to think about what my expectations might be. And then when we arrived for our briefing... a huge street riot broke out and burning tires and machine gun going off on the top of the roof of the building of the Headquarters, which was the old US Embassy compound, and..... I think it was clear up front that this was a very dangerous place. Later, I always described Mogadishu as sort of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

When you were briefed, what did they say was the worst case scenario?

Well, we didn't really get into what were the worst case scenarios....But the most difficult place was, of course, Mogadishu and...General Hoar wanted to make sure that before he agreed to take over the United Nations Force, they would be able to deal with whatever the worst case scenario would be. And his and my understanding from UNITAF of what the worst case scenario would be was street rioting -- like we had seen on the day that we had been there earlier in February and had been briefed.

Was that because their experience had been pretty mild and things had gone smoothly for the Unified Task Force?

I don't think things had gone smoothly for the Unified Task Force. They had had some difficulties and it was a dangerous place, too. But the Unified Task Force had 37,000 troops in it. And 21,000 of them were US -- between Marines and Army. So they had a big muscle and they had a different mission. Their mission was to secure the humanitarian relief. They didn't have a mission to do any of the political reconstruction or nation-building, certainly not to do any major disarmament. They did limited disarmament, enough to make sure that the warlords didn't interfere. So I think they were forceful but they had a big stick and they had an understanding with the warlords.

What was the relationship between the UN and General Aidid when you arrived?

The UN really was not in the lead in terms of dealing with Aidid and the other warlords. That responsibility was with the United States, as leader of the United Task Force. Ambassador Oakley and General Johnston were principally the leaders on the United Nations Task Force side who were dealing with them. The warlords were somewhat restrained in that they did not have freedom of movement with armed vehicles -- for instance the technicals -- the vehicles that had been rigged with weapons. Basically I think Ambassador Oakley and General Johnston had some interface with Aidid and the warlords to sort of keep things under control so the humanitarian relief mission could continue. But it was tenuous, I mean there were problems.... the anger vented at the United Nations and the threats and all of that was noticeable on Radio Aidid.

So it was a difficult relationship, because now you have got the United Task Force -- who is there to make sure humanitarian relief goes in -- but you have somebody there that is to build a nation, and reconstruct politically, against your will. That was not in the best interest of the warlords, who wanted, each of them, to control and of course Aidid was the strongest of the warlords.

So there was a real animosity at the beginning?

Aidid did not want the United Nations there. The approach that the United Nations took was to build from the bottom up.... to start at the village council level and the regional level. Not working with the warlords. And this was threatening stuff... Aidid didn't want any part of that.

What happened on the 5th of June 1993?

The 5th of June, the Pakistani Battalion were dispatched....We went very early with weapons inspectors to the weapons storage site, conducted the inventories, and this also included Radio Aidid. There was only a big stir in Radio Aidid, because they thought we were going to take it over. They essentially completed the inspection without any major difficulties. But as the Pakistanis were returning to their base....along a very dangerous road, they were violently ambushed with heavy weapons, with machine guns.

I think it took them about thirty minutes to notify the Headquarters, and we immediately dispatched an American attack helicopter and there were some Italian attack helicopters there for a short time.

And ambushes also happened at the feeding site?

At the same time, there was this awful attack at a feeding site, with Pakistani soldiers. We had soldiers at each feeding site to help the organizations that actually did the feeding. At one of those sites, Pakistanis -- an officer and seven men -- were overwhelmed by women and kids, which was a typical way the Somali militia operated. They put women and children at the front and just sort of let the crowd press in, and they pressed in around them and then disarmed them and then there were shooters in the crowd and they shot a couple of them. A couple of them were literally taken apart by hand. This is the kind of viciousness we saw. Altogether there were about 27 Pakistanis who were killed that day. It was a very awful day.

What are your views about some of the incidents between the UN soldiers and the Somalis -- and some of the mistreatment of the Somali people?

I think it's unfortunate....There were some cases, for instance the Canadians during the UNITAF period. Subsequent to that, there were some allegations made against the Italians, that the Italian government has undertaken and there were I think a court martial or two in Belgium....During the UNITAF period, I recall, there was a court martial of a [US] soldier who shot a Somali. And that's the only one I know of in terms of the US and there was swift action taken.

But, I mean if you had your arm on the window sill your watch would be gone....And...you were getting starving people in a society that had no police and no authority, other than people carrying guns, and so you have to put it in that context. But it was very hard often to deal with crowds like that and they were very, very dangerous.

Was the relationship deteriorating between the civilians in Mogadishu and the UN contingency?

No, I mean you can't categorize it by the relationship between Aidid and his faction and the UN. The whole northern part of the city was very friendly and favorable to the United Nations. There was a lot of focus on the weekly gatherings that Aidid would have -- the rallies -- and the press would usually zero in on them. But there was one time one over in north Mogadishu that had 20,000 Somalis, a pro-UN rally, and all of that, and of course, there was never any coverage of that. So the whole of the northern part of the city, at that point in time, was very friendly.

And then there was a part of Mogadishu with a mixture of the clans, but basically was fairly peaceful at that point in time. It became dangerous later. So there were a lot of Somalis that were very supportive of the UN and what they trying to do. But, if you were in that part of Mogadishu that belonged to Aidid and his faction and that's where the UN headquarters and all that happened to be, and it was a different story, and the people were very unfriendly. And how you dealt with them was different.

One of the things I did when I first got there, and found that there were some very strict rules about...having to get some higher authority before you could even use pepper spray. And my view... was that if you had a crowd close on any guard post or anything, it's too late to do anything about it, And I did not want any American soldier to think he could not protect himself. So we had rules of engagement that were very robust, they were essentially the same rules that UNITAF had that said that we could use deadly force for self protection, I wanted there not to be any doubt in a soldier's mind that he could not protect himself, and I did not want any unit or base to think that they could not take measures with pepper spray to control crowds, and to keep a situation from happening, where suddenly they are there and they are taking you apart. I think we did a good job with that on the US side, and that included the use of tear gas, although we controlled that a little tighter.

What was the significance of the June 5th attack?

The United Nations was attacked and we were at war. And I believe that Aidid said, 'we were at war.' Now Admiral Howe and his staff continued to try and open channels of communication to do something about that. But when you look at events, Aidid was, I think, committed at that point in time to running the UN out and so we were all at war.

After that we were almost nightly attacked by mortar attacks. We had frequent ambushes. There were paths like that 21 October Road that we could not safely use. There were a couple of major fights after that because again, the Pakistanis were on the other side, and had to go up and down that road at times, and there were some major fights that involved US Quick Reaction Force. US Engineers one time were caught with a bulldozer, trying to get to the Pakistanis.

And the typical way the Somalis would open an attack would be to press with women who, very often, were rifle-carrying combatants. There was a lot of criticism, particularly of the Pakistanis early on, that they had opened fire on women and children. It was really unfair because the Somalis literally used their women and kids like that.

After the June 5th attack, you are given this mandate to capture Aidid. What did you need to execute it and how did you go about that next step?

We had a mandate to capture Aidid. At first it was only something that US-UN forces could do. But I think it was in July the decision was made in Washington, transmitted to me, that I could in fact use the Quick Reaction Force for that purpose too. And we did do some training for the Quick Reaction Force. But as I said, things would have to be exactly right before I would ever attempt anything like that with light infantry unit -- no matter how good they were, and they were very good.

As I looked at the UN Force, I didn't see anybody that was gonna be able to do this. Even if they decided they wanted to.

My position was, if you want us to capture Aidid, then you have to give us the resources to do it, and I don't have them. I have light infantry and they're very very good, but they're not the right people to do something like that. So if we had permission to do that, then you should give us some help. Admiral Howe had pressed the United States for some assistance, and at a certain point in time -- I think probably in July or August -- the decision was made that the US would provide Task Force Ranger for the purpose of arresting Aidid and a list of leaders...

You also have UN nations under your control that are having different opinions about the policy.

The nations didn't all agree with the policy, and many of them were just not happy with the way the course of the mission was going. The French detachment came in one operation to Mogadishu and made it clear that they would never come back, and they stayed in their area of operation.

Many of the Italians had some similar limitations, and it's one of the major problems with the Chapter VII mission in the United Nations context. That the first commander, General Bir, could not turn to the Italian commander, or the French commander, or somebody and give him a mission and expect that it would be done. It doesn't happen in a UN context.

So we had all these different agendas going. You had nations who were increasingly concerned about the course of this mission. And you had a lot of contingents withdrawing back and wanting to just operate in their own small area of operations. So that is a part of the problem here. And at the same time, Mogadishu's becoming increasingly dangerous.

Capturing Aidid...what were some of the other problems?

The United Nations, I think, wanted to put a price on his head. But if you really wanted to capture somebody like that, you would just do it. And you wouldn't put a price on their head, you would just go do it -- before he knows, whoever that person is, that you are necessarily really intending to do it.

But that's not the way it can work in the United Nations process where you have all the different nations involved. So you had to call for his arrest, you had to have the resolution, and then you had to make the announcement, and then the decision was that you put a price on head. I didn't have a problem with putting a price on his head. I just thought we ought to put a million dollars on his head, to make it worth somebody's while to really betray the guy.

Because I tell you Aidid was a real tyrant, a very, very dangerous man. And if a Somali crossed him, you were dead. Some of the Somalis that we had working in a radio station that Admiral Howe had operating, for instance, were murdered in their homes by the Aidid faction because they were working for the United Nations... And so $25,000 isn't getting anybody to do that. I found out later that there was $250,000 on our heads by Aidid and his factions. Of course they would never have paid it, but nonetheless we had a bigger price on our heads....

But... we did not have the capability to capture him, particularly after it had been announced. He was so far underground, and this would have taken some really good police undercover work. We had none of that capability. The point I ought to make though is that we didn't defer our sole focus into capturing Aidid by any stretch of the imagination, we continued protecting ourselves, protecting our convoys, keeping the force going, Admiral Howe kept trying to get the political process up and running again and opening some lines of communication with Aidid. I mean all those things continued. The press was focused on the capture of Aidid, but we weren't.

How confident were you about the military intelligence at that point?

Our intelligence capability at that point was increased.... I don't think I can go into it in any detail, but there was an augmentation for human intelligence. That was pretty helpful. And ...Task Force Ranger, when it came, had its own capabilities, independent of us. I mean we fed any information that we got, from sources or something like that, through our own intelligence gathering to them. But essentially they had their own capability and they had some very sophisticated technology. But in an environment like Mogadishu your best sources are human intelligence,

There was some resistant from higher levels to bringing the Task Force Rangers. Why?

Well General Hoar, who was my immediate boss -- US CINCCENT -- was very much against bringing the Task Force Ranger in. Now, he knew that I supported Admiral Howe's request for that. But he was very much against it.

I don't know for a fact, but I think initially that General Howe was very reluctant as well and I think that stems from the experience with Noriega in Panama and how difficult it was to get Noriega and how, when you have a CNN camera over your shoulder everyday, saying 'Yes, but you don't have him, why haven't you captured him yet?' the process is not very likely to succeed. It's gonna be a very painful process and you're gonna look bad. And it's not a mission that soldiers are suited to do.

Soldiers are not policemen, they are soldiers, they do not do that kind of work and so it's not right to use them that way, and if you ask me today in hindsight, if I were the CINCENT I would be against it as well. My experience now would tell me, don't even think about doing it with the military. But again, we didn't decide to do that. We were told to do that. It was part of our mission. Resolution 837 of the United Nations Security Council, approved by the United States chain of command. And so we were directed to conduct those operations. And Task Force Ranger, of course, was specially configured and was the right kind of force that had the capabilities and everything to pull it off. They weren't just soldiers.

Who in the chain of command is agreeing with the Security Council Resolution?

I don't think anybody disagreed with the Security Council Resolution. The issue was whether US forces should be used to do an operation like this. Military officers make recommendations and advise the policy level leaders, and the policy level leaders make the decisions. I wasn't in Washington, though my understanding is that eventually General Powell did go along with the need to send Task Force Ranger to Somalia. It's pretty clear to me that if General Powell pounded his desk and said 'No, no, no' that they wouldn't have come, but the decision was made in Washington that the Task Force Ranger would be deployed. But General Hoar, my boss, did not think it would be successful.

Who did Task Force Ranger report to... what was the chain of command?

So Task Force Ranger is deployed to Somalia, to Mogadishu. It is not under my tactical control nor is it under my operational control. Garrison was the Commander. He did not report to me, he reported directly to General Hoar as well. But he and I talked everyday, met almost everyday. His responsibility was to coordinate with me, so that I always knew what was going on, and my responsibility was to try and help make sure that they didn't interfere with UN operation or cause problems in that regard. I didn't have a veto over any of their operations. They reported to the CINC and the CINC gave them some very specific guidance about what they could and couldn't do without talking to him. I know that Garrison spoke to him daily. It was not generally known outside of the Mogadishu, that there was another two-star Commander there, so a lot of people back in the States probably thought that they were working for me, but they weren't.

How did you find out about the October 3rd incident?

On the day of what has become known as the 'Battle of Mogadishu' I was away from Mogadishu, I was in western Somalia with the German contingent, and I was representing the Force Command. I got back into headquarters about three in the afternoon, as I recall, and when I came back down I was told that something was brewing, that the Rangers had an operation that they were going to launch, and I was given the information that was available at that time, I talked to General Garrison, I let General Bir know what on the US side was happening. General Bir was never out of the picture, General Garrison and I talked, the nature of their operations is that they get short notice and they are very adapted to making a quick plan and launching a quick strike. What would take us several days to plan, would take them maybe 20 minutes to plan.

Now while I was out, I mean the alert had gone to my American G3 Operations Officer, and all the things that we needed to do to support the Rangers had already been done. The Quick Reaction Force was already spinning up and being prepared to support if they needed to, if the Rangers got in trouble.

General Garrison and I talked about it. I told him that there were no UN activities located there.... this happened to be in a very bad part of Mogadishu and it was reported later that I said to him 'that's really Indian country, Bill.' But of course they knew that. They'd been there for a while. But it was a bad neighborhood, very dangerous But I also didn't have any reason to doubt that they knew all of that.

Now the mission itself -- what I did -- was immediately to start lining up support if we needed it. I didn't have any reason to think that we would, other than it was a dangerous operation. I had a Liaison Officer from General Garrison at my side, and I had my hand on communications to talk to the Quick Reaction Force, and to the Rangers. I had the ability to talk to UN Forces.

When it became apparent that we had a problem, we dispatched the Quick Reaction Force -- began dispatching it down to the Ranger headquarters. I started thinking ahead to what else I might need. Now I didn't have any armor or heavy forces at my disposal. There were only eight tanks in Mogadishu....they were old American tanks that had been given to the Pakistanis, and of those only four were operational, and they were at the airport, which is where the Ranger headquarters was. And so I called the Pakistani Commander and told him that I might need those tanks, and he said okay.

You had made a request for tanks -- why wasn't it already set up to have those tanks on call...?

Well those tanks -- the Pakistani tanks -- were on call. They happened to be at the airport, poised to help an operation that the Pakistanis were going to conduct. So they were poised and they were ready and I had no reason other than to build a force and have it standing by to support Task Force Ranger. 'Cause nobody thought that they would ever need that kind of back up. As a matter of fact, having a Quick Reaction Force stand up was something that we routinely did, the US Quick Reaction Force.

But to go beyond that means that you would have to tell contingents what was going on. There's no such thing as a secret in Mogadishu, particularly in the UN Headquarters, or amongst contingents, so I mean you couldn't compromise. Even if you had a reason, and, again, we just didn't have a reason to have those four tanks sitting for Task Force Ranger, and again they were old tanks. They had real limitations. The Italians had fifty, some real tanks, more modern. And the Italians were about two hours out of the city I think.

So when it became apparent that we had a problem that the Rangers couldn't handle by themselves, and that I needed some more punch other than infantry, then I asked the Pakistani commander for those tanks and he said yes. So there's a miscommunication about this. In their planning for going into that Ranger force that was hunkered down to get them out, it was clear that we needed some armored personnel carriers. The Malaysian Battalion had wheeled armoured personnel carriers. They were older vehicles, but they were better than nothing, they were pretty good vehicles. I [told] the Malaysian Commander, that we might have to commit the Malaysian Battalion, and the Malaysian Commander did not hesitate to say yes.

What took the time... there's a misunderstanding about this. First of all, the Quick Reaction Force tried to go to conduct a relief. To go with the lean elements of the Quick Reaction Force. And they ran into a fight. And it was clear to me that if we piecemealed into that fight, that we were gonna suffer casualties, and that it was not a smart thing to do.

Now, Task Force Ranger had a successful raid. They had time to even take the prisoners out of the location and evacuate them back. However, when the second helicopter went down, they made the decision that they were gonna divert and go to that helicopter. So instead of coming out, after it had successfully accomplished its mission, they're diverted to go protect that helicopter and see if they could get the crew out. I mean, that was their decision.

Task Force Ranger, made that decision and they had a lot of support. Almost all of the casualties -- except that maybe one Ranger that I know of who missed the rope coming off the helicopter -- were taken in the process of going from that point to the helicopter site. Once they got to the helicopter site, they were resupplied by air, with fuel, with ammunition, and with water. And they were secure. I mean,they were under pressure and they were under attack, but they were secure. I think there was one other Ranger that died while they hunkered down, and the doctors had indicated that he probably would not have survived, even if they had been able to get him out. I mean there was not a big controversy about that.

So there were no casualties taken, once they were in that position. And they were secure. And I made the decision that we were gonna put a big plan together, and we were not gonna waste lives by rushing in there. And I personally approved the final plans... to make sure that we were doing the right thing by going in, and I knew that we had some time to do that. Because I knew that every helicopter in Mogadishu was over them, with guns blaring, if necessary, and I knew that they were okay, and they were. And that Garrison had made it clear to me that they were not in immediate danger. But we needed to get them out of there.

The decision was made by Task Force Ranger that they would like not to take the Malaysian soldiers in necessarily, but they would like to use those armored personnel carriers. And the Malaysian Commander said okay, but he wanted his drivers to drive. So the force that went in had four Pakistani tanks. They had no night vision capability, they went in anyway. They had the Battalion of armored personnel carriers with Rangers and 10th Mountain Division, the Quick Reaction Force soldiers in it. And all of the helicopters that they could put in the sky above the operation backing them up. That's the force that went in, and they got in -- I don't remember exactly how long -- but they had to fight their way in and it took them two or three hours.

There was a problem getting in there?

In fighting its way in, it took about two or three hours to get there, mostly in the hours of darkness. Two killed and about 12 wounded, and one of the killed also was a Malaysian soldier -- one of the drivers of the vehicles. It was very difficult going for the tanks because again they had no eyes, they had no night vision capability, they were in the lead and that was a little slow, too, I think, but nonetheless, it was an efficient operation. They got there.

What actually took so long, the Rangers did not want to leave without being able to extract the remains of the pilots in the helicopter. And there was great difficulty in doing that. And all night, as you can imagine -- this was the worst night of my life -- I kept saying, 'get out of there, let's go, get out of there, let's go.'

Now [the Rangers] were okay once the force got to them. There wasn't any fighting or anything. But nonetheless it was very dangerous and we had to make the move. The plan was to get everybody out and over to the Pakistani stadium, which was closer than the airport. It was better to do that than try and come back the same way, and it was well after midnight -- almost 3 - 4 o'clock in the morning -- before the last of them were ready to come out of there. But there was this was confusion, I think, about it taking eleven hours to rescue the men. They weren't under great duress during that period. That's why they stayed in there so long. And we got them out.

It did take a certain amount of time to put the right plan together and to assemble the Force -- being the Malaysian vehicles and drivers and Pakistanis. There was a lot of conjecture, and a lot of things said that I think were very unfair. I'm very proud of the Malaysian and the Pakistani soldiers that were a part of that, I am enormously proud of the 10th Mountain Division who got very little recognition, because they weren't a part of Task Force Ranger. The focus was on Task Force Ranger, but Colonel Bill David, was their commander and he just did a superb job. They did everything right, and they took casualties, and they were tremendous soldiers, all of them. And I made it a point to write a letter to the Chief of Defense of the Malaysian Forces, because there was some accusation in I think Time Magazine-- and nothing could have been further from the truth, in fact as a soldier, I have to tell you that I would go anywhere, under any circumstances with the Malaysian soldiers.... But at any rate, that's how that evening unfolded, [there are] a lot of misconceptions about it.

What about Garrison and his Ranger Task Force and their back up plan?

I'm sure he had one.... I mean he had his own internal Reaction Force. He didn't commit his total force and he had his own helicopter gun ships and he had significant capability. My US Quick Reaction Force was there as the second or third back-up, I think, for the Rangers.

You made requests for armored tanks, more support. Why was your request denied?

If you look at events in July and August, you would see that there was an increase in the number of ambushes on the roads. There was an increase in numbers of mortar attacks against us, against our facilities and the Headquarters, our casualties started to go up, in August there was this awful explosive that literally obliterated a vehicle with four young MPs in it. A time I will never in my life forget. So it was becoming increasingly difficult and at the same time, I have to say that the United Nations forces were becoming increasingly timid and I really began to be worried about my capability to protect my force, as the US Commander.

So I made a request in August, I sent it to General Hoar in Tampa, and I asked for a Mechanic Task Force, and I asked for a Air Cavalry Troop. I asked for more human intelligence capability. As I recall, there may have been some more and the response back about two or three weeks later, when the CINC came to see me, was that would never fly and my response to that was 'Yes, but that's what I need.'

Why wouldn't it fly?

It wouldn't fly because the United States wanted out of Somalia, wanted to lower our troop presence, rather than increasing it. And this was a request that said -- this guy Montgomery wants to build the force. The request, at the very outset, said 'for protection of the force,' only. I mean I had absolutely no intention to expand operations, or to become more aggressive or do anything like that. I really honestly was worried that some other bad thing was gonna happen .

After I was told that was too big a force and would never fly in Washington.... I resized a force that still would have the capability with the Bradley fighting vehicles and heavy mortar platoons instead of armor or instead of artillery and a platoon's worth of intelligence. At any rate it was downsized considerably, but it would still be a good force, and that is the request I made and that request went forward to Washington from Florida, CINCENT's headquarters. I think it was August or early September. Now this incident, the battle, took place on the 3rd of October.

Is there a general feeling that the nature of your mission is increasing in scope as far as what the US is requesting for you to do? Yet, at the same time, they're decreasing what they are willing to supply you with?

I understand that politically the United States wanted out of Somalia at that point in time, and they weren't any happier with the way the mission was going... had never intended to leave the Quick Reaction Force there for the entire period, it hoped that we would be able to bring it out early and that we had plans to further decrease the force... [they were] trying to get out and you know, this guy, this Commander says he needs more troops, but nobody was shooting in Washington -- they were shooting at us. I was just concerned, I did what I had to do, I think it's a military commander's responsibility to say what is needed regardless of whether it'll fly or not fly.

Can you talk about the incident on July 12th at Abdi House and how it was conducted?

The Abdi House raid was my responsibility and it was conducted by the Quick Reaction Force.... We had excellent intelligence about the Abdi house. We knew that everyday at 9:30 the Molisha leadership met there. Not all of them showed up; Aidid didn't come very often, but most of the them showed up. There was one woman who worked there. We knew the day we launched the raid that she was not there, we knew there were no children. We knew that that was a Molisha headquarters. We also knew that leadership was the leadership that was responsible for that mine that blew up the four MPs and orchestrating all of the acts of violence against the US and UN Forces. And so we decided to take it out.

And again, I could not do anything like that without approval from higher headquarters......We had a five-day window, it was about the 4th day before I launched, although we were set to go everyday. It was a classic air mobile raid in which we engaged the building with TOW missiles and then we landed on the roof of the building next door, and on the street in front, and were in and out within 10 minutes, with Air Mobile Infantry troops. When the troops got in the building, there were either dead or wounded but there were others that took them under fire so they had to fight their way in.

How many people died?

I don't know.... 20, 25 Somalis as I recall, were dead. So it was large, but of course the Somalis made claims, after the fact, that women and children had been involved and there were like 70 or something -- which is ridiculous. I mean I was overhead in the helicopter... From a military stand point, [it was] a very precise, and very decisive operation and the intent was to kill bad guys, to decapitate part of the command staff that were making the decisions about the attacks on the United States and the United Nations.

Now at the same time, looking back on it, it also worked against us from the standpoint that the suddenness and the violence of it shocked a lot of UN civilian personnel, I think, and some of the humanitarian people that were not at the site. But I mean the fact that we did that had a tendency to make the Somalis and the faction -- it really stirred them up a lot, too. And you may recall that a couple of reporters or photographers were subsequently killed by the Somalis on that side.

So was July 12 a significant turning point in the whole Somalia US-UN operation?

Yes, it was clearly the most amount of force that we had used, but I wouldn't call it a turning point. From a military standpoint, I think it was a logical continuation. I mean we were being attacked nightly, there were ambushes and we had already taken a significant number of casualties, and not just us, the United Nations troops as well.

What are your views on charges -- from the Rangers specifically -- that the Italians were sympathetic to Aidid and harboring him?

I'm not surprised, quite frankly. The Italians had interests in Somalia. Unlike the rest of us they had been colonial masters of a good part of Somalia... They felt that they had a special relationship with the Somalis and so they thought they knew better how to do a lot of things. And they were rather independent and there were problems between the headquarters, Admiral Howe, and the Italians that resulted in the Italians leaving North Mogadishu and moving to a new location....

I'm not surprised to hear the Rangers have had that feeling about the Italians because other troops in the coalition had that feeling about them, too. They didn't trust them... whether it's more than suspicion or not, I can't go beyond that. I know that a lot of US troops even thought that the mortar attacks on the airport sometimes were so precise and that they saw signalling from the portion of the airport that came where the Italians were..... I have a hard time believing that. I can't believe that the Italians would do that. Now maybe there were Somalis in that complex with them or somebody.

Could you sum up the relationship vis a vis the US forces and the UN in Somalia?

The US was a very important player with the UN mission in Somalia. We brought a lot of things to that mission that nobody else did and just in terms of the military capabilities -- all of the combat multipliers, helicopters and engineers and things like that. But the United States also had limits about what it would and wouldn't do... But this was a time when everybody was overly confident in what the United Nations could do or could become in terms of peace enforcement.

It seems naive now to think that our leadership could have believed that the UN was capable of handling something like this Somalia mission and step up and handle a peace enforcement mission. I think that broadly speaking there was this thought that the United Nations could become something bigger, more decisive than it was.

What was your hope when you were first given the assignment? As far as the UN possibilities or the potential?

Well, I told you I had three weeks notice to get there, so I went. As a soldier, you accept your mission, you get the mandate and you try your damnedest to see how you can accomplish the mission and that's the mode that we were in. And then over time, it became apparent to us that, for instance, disarmament was not possible in a society like the Somali society. That expansion to the other regions and our system could not happen. And we insisted -- we the military's part of the mission -- insisted that we could not do that. That we did not have the resources to do it.

But I mean it was a learning process over time for us too. Initially you go in you know with -- here's the job and here's your mission...But Africa is a special challenge. Tribalism and tribal societies are something that we don't have any concept of. It's impossible for an American mother to believe that a Somali mother would raise children to avenge the clan.

There is a saying in Somalia that goes, 'Me and Somalia against the World, me and my clan against Somalia, me and my family against my clan, me and my brother against my family, me against my brother.' That's a Somali proverb. It exposes just a little bit of what this society can be like. Their first loyalty is to the clan, to the tribe. And life in general is taken very lightly in a society like that, and we don't understand that. We do now. And so hopefully we will never get involved in a nation-building or something other than a pure humanitarian relief operation in a tribal setting like that. But at the time I don't think anybody really understood that.

There's been talk about whether Aidid baited a trap for the Rangers on the October 3rd raid. For example, that Aidid realized that RPGs could take helicopters out...

I don't believe there was anything set up for that raid. The Rangers saw a meeting... and a number of people who were on their list [were] together in one spot and they planned [it] and took them out. The raid would have been a complete and total success if that helicopter hadn't gone down.

But they're getting fire as soon as they're getting there....

Yeah, but you've got to understand, too, in that part of Mogadishu everybody brought their gun and came to the fight.

But RPGs?

RPGs were just like rifles. I mean RPGs were all over the place. So I don't attach any significance to that other than Somalis love a fight... everybody grabbed their gun and came to the fight and the troops were exposed after the raid, going to the helicopter site. And my understanding is that's how they took most of their casualties. Now the helicopters were shot down. I can't address that. I mean you need to talk to the Rangers. But whether they were all shot down by RPG or whether there were other fire that brought them down... I do know that the burnout for an RPG round is about 700 feet and if you're below that then you're susceptible to an RPG but it's very hard to hit a helicopter with an RPG. But there were a lot of RPGs.

So you're saying it's hard to hit a helicopter. But then three were hit with RPGs that day.

But there was such a volume of fire going up at that point in time from all over that part of the city. There wasn't anything set up or staged -- you know, draw them in and shoot them down. It just was there was so many -- we talked about the impossibility of disarming the Somalis -- I mean there was so many weapons all over that city and that particular area... the Afgoy Market, that's where you went and bought weapons and stuff.

I don't know how to explain how dangerous that city was and how everybody had something stashed away, and when the Ranger raid went down there was a sort of call to arms in that area. And the level of weapons firings and all of that on both sides was probably just enormous.

What about the fact that the US, at the same time the hunt for Aidid was on, was considering, if not pursuing, a diplomatic course in Somalia and with Aidid?

There had been a recommendation to rethink new ways to maybe engage the Somali faction leaders, Aidid specifically. I knew that recommendation had been made, but not even the Ambassador knew that anybody had taken it under consideration or advisement back here.... You may recall the President said something about the fact they'd kind of made a decision in Washington to take a different course. And he was appalled at the news -- well, I think we were appalled at the news -- that somebody had decided to take a different course and yet we were continuing [our operations. Here we had no new orders or new guidelines.

But apparently the President's remarks were about maybe they were deciding to take a different course.... But nothing had ever been communicated to the field. I wish if that was the case, that whenever somebody had made that decision back there, [they] had told the military chain of command to cease and desist in this effort to bring Aidid to justice.

Why is there such bad communication?

I don't know that it was a communication breakdown. Maybe the decision really hadn't finally been made. Maybe it was still just being kicked around. You'd have to ask the policymakers about that.

Can you talk about the military's review of what happened in Mogadishu?

We spent a lot of time after the mission at the US Army's peacekeeping institute in Carlisle Barracks. About three months. And we had several panels come together. We had all the players or representatives from DOD and JCS and US CENTCOM and just all of the players in State Department. And we examined all of the issues and we completed a report that's very detailed -- it's two volumes. It has the history of exactly what happened in Somalia in one of its volumes, day by day virtually drawing on operations records and all of that. And then we have a very extensive lessons learned piece in it that has remained classified since we completed it. And it has been reviewed a number of times at the policy level. And all that remained at that point in time was for the army to complete an examination of the report to see what should remain classified and what shouldn't because a part of it will necessarily have to remain classified. But I haven't heard anything since then and we are five years after the mission

I know that report was available for those who went to Rwanda and for the mission in Haiti, as well as Bosnia. So the lessons learned were available to people that really needed them. But because we did such a thorough job and included what the policy level decisions were and how they impacted on us in the field in Somalia -- there's just a great deal of sensitivity about that. And it will be some time probably before that report will be available in an unclassified manner.

What was the impact Somalia had on more recent policy decisions such as in Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti?

Somalia had very significant impacts on the way we conducted the mission in Rwanda, going in and taking care of the humanitarian emergency and then leaving. And the way we went into Haiti with overwhelming force so that there was no question that if it was resisted that there would be a very serious price to pay. And I think Somalia had a big impact on the decision about the way we did that. Now the unit that went in was the 10th Mountain Division. [It] had been in Somalia, and I can tell you that one of the brigade commanders wrote to me and said 'Sir, we applied all the lessons we learned in Somalia.'

In Bosnia it was in large measure because of the experience in Somalia.... we did it in a manner that made sure that there was more than adequate force available should it be needed. But that we went in with restraint and all of the things that we learned that are so important in a peacekeeping mission.

There is a dilemma of sorts for the military in that we know that our primary mission will always be defense and to then fight and win the nation's wars and we don't want the military to become a peacekeeping military; it would be a big mistake to do that. But at the same time, the strategic environment that we face every day and that has now placed such tremendous demands on the United States military in relation to Bosnia and other places really is one where our soldiers and our officers need to be able to cope with all of the ambiguity that you find in a peacekeeping mission. They very often have to negotiate. They have to have those kinds of skills. They have to understand why you can't just fire back and take out a city block.

There is a compromise that has to be made -- make sure that at the same time you're teaching people how to handle that peacekeeping environment, you stay razor sharp so that if you have to fight in the desert or any place else, that you can do it without the loss of lives. And that's a tremendous challenge, I think, right now for the United States military.


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