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