Chronology: US/UN in Somalia
General Aidid


Civil War and famine
Long-time dictator Siad Barre is forced out of Mogadishu in January, 1991. Conflict between the Somali National Movement (SNM), Aidid's party, and other factions causes clan infighting, leading to famine and lawlessness throughout portions of the country. An estimated 300,000 Somalis die of starvation during the year of civil war that followed Barre's ouster.


March 3

Warring faction leaders sign a ceasefire agreement, which includes provisions to allow a UN monitoring mission into Somalia to oversee arrangements for providing humanitarian assistance.

April 24

UN Military Observers to Somalia
UN Security Council approves UN operation in Somalia, pursuant to the ceasefire agreement. In July, 50 unarmed UN military observers are deployed to Mogadishu to monitor the ceasefire.

August 15

Operation Provide Relief (United Nations Operation in Somalia -- UNOSOM I)
UN humanitarian relief effort begins.

December 4

US President George Bush launches Somalia intervention
Deteriorating security prevents the UN mission from delivering food and supplies to the starving Somalis. Relief flights are looted upon landing, food convoys are hijacked and aid workers assaulted. The UN appeals to its members to provide military forces to assist the humanitarian operation.

With only weeks left in his term as president, George Bush responds to the UN request, proposing that US combat troops lead an international UN force to secure the environment for relief operations. On December 5, the UN accepts his offer, and Bush orders 25,000 US troops into Somalia. On December 9th, the first US Marines land on the beach.

Bush assures the American people and troops involved that this is not an open ended commitment; the objective is to quickly provide a secure environment so that food can get through to the starving Somalis, and then the operation will be turned over to the UN peacekeeping forces. He assures the public that he plans for the troops to be home by Clinton's inauguration in January.

This US-led United Task Force (UNITAF) is dubbed "Operation Restore Hope."



Clinton takes over
Clinton, like Bush, is anxious to scale down the American military presence in Somalia and let the United Nations take charge.

March 15 -28

Addis Ababa Accords
The UN organized Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, results in a resolution among faction leaders, including Aidid, to end the violence.

May 4

UN takeover; "nation building" (UNOSOM II)
In March, the UN authorizes UNOSOM II, a UN operation with expanded enforcement power, whose mandate stressed "the crucial importance of disarmament" of the Somali people. This UN-led mission was to take over from the US-led UNITAF. The expanded operation's new mission goes beyond simply providing humanitarian relief, calling for the UN to facilitate "nation building," to get Somalia back on its feet by restoring law and order, shoring up the infrastructure, and helping to set up processes for establishing a representative government. By the end of March, 28 different nations send contingents to Somalia in support of the new militarized operation. The US officially hands over the command to the UN on May 4.

While Clinton supported this expansion of the UN's mandate, he simultaneously ordered the number of US troops in Somalia to be reduced and replaced by UN troops. By June, only 1,200 US combat soldiers remained in Somalia, with 3,000 support troops.

June 5

Massacre of Pakistani troops; the hunt for Aidid
During an inspection of a Somali arms weapons storage site, 24 Pakistani soldiers are ambushed and massacred. The next day, the UN Security Council issues an emergency resolution calling for the apprehension of "those responsible" for the massacre. Though Aidid is not specifically named in the resolution, it is, in effect, a call to apprehend him. Twelve days later, Admiral Howe orders Aidid's arrest, offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to his apprehension.

June 8

Special Forces requested
In the aftermath of the June 5 massacre, Admiral Howe first requests a counterterrorist hostage rescue force from Washington because they he they needed more extensive military capability to deal with the escalating violence. No such troops are forthcoming until Task Force Ranger is deployed in August.

June 12-16

Attacks on Aidid's strongholds
US and UN troops begin attacking various targets in Mogadishu associated with Aidid, including a radio station and ammunition depots. The peacekeepers are now at war with Aidid.

July 12

Abdi house attack
In a major escalation, American Cobra helicopters attack a house in south Mogadishu where a group of clan leaders are meeting, destroying the building with TOW missiles and cannon fire and killing a number of Somalis. Four western journalists who had gone to investigate are beaten to death by an angry mob.

July 29

Last sighting of Aidid

August 8

Americans killed by land mines
Four American military police are killed by a remote detonated land mine set off by Somalis. Two weeks later, six more US soldiers are wounded in a similar attack. This gets attention in America, and shortly thereafter, Task Force Ranger is deployed to Somalia.

August 26

US Special Forces arrive in Somalia
US Army Task Force Ranger flies into Mogadishu -- 440 elite troops from Delta Force and the U.S. Rangers. Led by Major General William F. Garrison, their mission is to capture Aidid. They begin pursuing Aidid and his top lieutenants, with sporadic success.


Carter negotiating with Aidid
In the midst of the manhunt, the Clinton administration opens a secret initiative to negotiate with Aidid. Former president Jimmy Carter, who had a previous relationship with Aidid, volunteers to act as intermediary. The US military commanders in Mogadishu are not informed about this new initiative.


Request for armored reinforcements denied
In a decision that is later highly criticized, US Defense Secretary Les Aspin denies requests from General Montgomery for armored reinforcements, despite support for Montgomery's request from General Colin Powell. Aspin says that he did not want to create the appearance that the US was increasing forces in Somalia at a time when they were trying to reduce military presence. He later concedes,"Had I known at the time what I knew after the events of Sunday, [October 3]. I would have made a very different decision." In December, he is forced to resign.

October 3-4

Task Force Ranger's assault on the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu, in search of Aidid, results in a seventeen hour bloody battle in which 18 US soldiers are killed and 84 are wounded.

October 7

Clinton's response: withdraw troops
President Clinton decides to cut his losses. He sends substantial combat troops as short term reinforcements, but declares that American troops are to be fully withdrawn from Somalia by March 31. The hunt for Aidid is abandoned, and US representatives are sent to resume negotiations with the warlord. Two weeks later, in a letter to President Clinton, General Garrison accepts full responsibility for what happened in the battle.

October 14

Durant released
CWO Mike Durant, who had been taken captive by Aidid's men during the battle, is released along with a Nigerian prisoner.


March 25

Remaining US forces leave Somalia
Approximately 20,000 UN forces remain, composed primarily of Asian and African contingents.



Final UN withdrawal from Somalia

August 1

Aidid dies
Aidid dies in hospital from bullet wounds received during an outbreak of fighting in Mogadishu.

home . firefight . us rangers . weapons . interviews . discussion
readings . chronology . press reaction . tapes & transcripts . frontline online . pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation