United Nations Operation in Somalia II
UNOSOM II carried on from the United States-controlled (UN-sanctioned) Unified Task Force (UNITAF), which had in turn taken over from the ineffectual United Nations Operation in Somalia I (UNOSOM I) mission. All three of these interventions were aimed at creating a secure enough environment for humanitarian operations to be carried out in the increasingly lawless and famine-stricken country.
Following the failure of the monitoring mission created as UNOSOM by the United Nations, the United States offered to lead a substantial intervention force, chiefly made up of American personnel. This was accepted by the UN and made possible through United Nations Security Council Resolution 794, authorizing the use of "all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia". The Security Council then urged the Secretary-General and member states to make arrangements for "the unified command and control" of the military forces that would be involved. On the evening of 4 December 1992, U.S. President George H. W. Bush made an address to the nation, informing them that U.S. troops would be sent to Somalia. The U.S. contribution would be known as Operation Restore Hope, which joined a multinational force and became known as the United Task Force (UNITAF). The operations of UNOSOM I were suspended. UNITAF was authorized under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
UNITAF and the arrangement of U.S. control was only intended as a transitional state of affairs. The mission consisted of four carefully laid out phases. The first phase was the initial deployment of troops and to provide secure harbor and airport sites in Mogadishu, from where the entire operation would be managed. Second was the expansion of the security zone to the surrounding regions of southern Somalia. Due to a more lenient environment than expected and the encouragement from NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations), UNITAF forces accomplished phase two a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. The third phase included a further expansion of the security zone into Kismayo and Bardera and the maintenance of secure land routes for humanitarian operations throughout the security zone. The fourth and final phase consisted of the handing over of operations to the United Nations and the withdrawal of most of the UNITAF forces. On 3 March 1993, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He noted that despite the size of the UNITAF mission, a secure environment was not yet established and there was still no effective functioning government or local security/police force.
The Secretary-General concluded therefore, that, should the Security Council determine that the time had come for the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II, the latter should be endowed with enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to establish a secure environment throughout Somalia. UNOSOM II would therefore seek to complete the task begun by UNITAF for the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia. The new mandate would also empower UNOSOM II to assist the Somali people in rebuilding their economic, political and social life, through achieving national reconciliation so as to recreate a democratic Somali State.
The new UN-controlled mission to be called UNOSOM II was established by the Security Council in Resolution 814 (1993) on 26 March 1993 but did not formally take over operations in Somalia until UNITAF was dissolved on 4 May 1993.
UNOSOM II in operation
A federalist government based on 18 autonomous regions was agreed upon by the leaders of Somalia's various armed factions. It was the objective of UNOSOM II to support this new system and initiate nation-building in Somalia. This included disarming the various factions, restoring law and order, helping the people to set up a representative government, and restoring infrastructure.
UNOSOM II had a strength of 28,000 personnel, including 22,000 troops and 8,000 logistic and civilian staff from Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Spain, South Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the USA and Zimbabwe. The US also provided 1,167 troops for a Quick Reaction Force under US operational control that would be stationed on US Navy ships off the coast of Somalia (see Carrier Strike Group 6). This force would respond to emergency threats to UNOSOM II but only if US Central Command in Florida approved.
On 5 June, a Pakistani force was sent to investigate an arms depot belonging to a Somali warload vying for the Presidency, Mohamed Farrah Aidid. When the Pakistani force arrived, they were greeted by angry Somali protesters. Twenty-four Pakistani soldiers inspecting weapons as part of the expanded UN mandate were killed when “forces believed to be associated with Aidid allegedly launched a fatal attack on peacekeeping forces.”
The UN responded the next day with Resolution 837, reaffirming that the secretary-general was authorized to “take all necessary measures against those responsible for the armed attacks and to establish the effective authority of UNOSOM II throughout Somalia.” This was essentially equivalent to declaring war on Aidid and his army, a declaration that would lead to numerous confrontations between UNOSOM II personnel and Aidid’s militia. UNOSOM II had much fewer war-fighting resources than UNITAF, but it was much more ambitious and aggressive.
On 12 June 1993 U.S. troops started attacking targets in Mogadishu in hopes of finding Aidid, a campaign which lasted until 16 June. On 17 June, a $25,000 warrant was issued by Admiral Jonathan Howe for information leading to the arrest of Aidid, but he was never captured. Howe also requested a counter-terrorist rescue force after the killings of the Pakistani troops.
The hunt for Aidid characterised much of the UNOSOM II intervention. The increasing tempo of military operations carried out in Mogadishu began to cause civilian casualties and affected the relationship between the foreign troops and the Somali people. The UN troops were portrayed as foreign interlopers, particularly after incidents of civilian casualties caused by wholesale firing into crowds. On July 12, a house where clan leaders were meeting was attacked by US AH-1 Cobra helicopters. Several buildings were destroyed and many Somalians died. When four western journalists went to investigate the scene, they were beaten to death by a Somalian mob. The journalists were Hansi Krauss of Associated Press and Dan Eldon, Hos Maina and Anthony Macharia, all of Reuters.
Somalis that had been disappointed by the failure of the UN to disarm the warlords in Mogadishu actually began to support those same warlords in an “us versus them” mentality. The spectre of Islamic fundamentalism also began to rise, as militia leaders sought to use religion as a rallying point for anti-UN sentiment. As the Americans became more insular, the warlords began to reassert control of many Mogadishu districts. With each failure to apprehend Aidid, the militias grew more bold. Serious rifts between nations contributing to UNOSOM II also began to develop, with Italy in particular being a major critic of the American methods.
Somali militias began targeting peacekeepers, causing further casualties. On 8 August, Aidid's militia detonated a remote controlled bomb against an American military vehicle, first killed four American soldiers and then, two weeks later, injured seven more. In response, President Bill Clinton approved the proposal to deploy a special task force composed of 400 US Army Rangers and Delta-force Commandos. This unit, named Task Force Ranger, consisted of 160 elite US troops. They flew to Mogadishu and began a manhunt for Aidid in what became known as Operation Gothic Serpent. On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger raided a hotel in Mogadishu in which Aidid was thought to be hiding. What ensued was the longest, bloodiest and deadliest battle for US troops in Somalia. In what later became known as the Battle of Mogadishu, eighteen US soldiers were killed. Images of their dead bodies being dragged through the streets were broadcast on television stations all over the world, horrifying and infuriating the American public.
The end of UNOSOM II
On October 7 in a nationwide television address, President Clinton "effectively ended the US proactive policy in Somalia" and "called for the withdrawal of all US forces no later than March 31, 1994." Resolution 954, passed on November 4, extended the UNOSOM mandate for a final period until March 31, 1995.
American soldiers completely withdrew on March 3, 1994, 28 days earlier than expected. Other nations, such as Belgium, France and Sweden, also decided to withdraw at this time.
On November 4, 1994, after “peacemaking” efforts by the 1,900 UNOSOM II troops failed, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously to withdraw all forces in Resolution 954. On November 16 the UNSC authorized Resolution 897, placing new emphasis on peacemaking and reconstruction and returning to a less reactive role. UNOSOM II’s mandate ended in March 1995 when US ships off the coast of Somalia assisted in the safe departure of the remaining UNOSOM troops. In early 1994 the Security Council set a deadline for the mission of March 1995. The withdrawal of UN troops from Somalia was completed on March 28, 1995.
Various reconciliation talks were carried out over the next few months providing for a ceasefire, the disarmament of militias and a conference to appoint a new Government. However, preparations for the conference were repeatedly postponed and many faction leaders simply ignored the agreements at will.
Aidid’s son, Hussein Mohamed Farrah took over after his father’s death in a battle in August 1996. He was a former US Marine who served during Operation Restore Hope in 1992.
Somalia participated in talks in December 1997 held in Cairo, Egypt, where Aidid and Mahdi, another Somali warlord, signed a “Declaration of Principles.” The declaration promised to launch reconciliation conferences in February, 1998 and to prepare a transitional government charter.
Walter Clarke, who was Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope, and Jeffrey Herbst, Associate Professor, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, conclude “The intervention in Somalia was not an abject failure; an estimated 100,000 lives were saved. But its mismanagement should be an object lesson for peacekeepers … on other such missions.”
- Thomas G. Weiss and Don Hubert, The Responsibility to Protect: Research, Bibliography, Background: Supplementary Volume to the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Vol. 2. (Canada: International Development Research Centre, 2001).
- United Nations, Security Council resolution 794 (1992), 24/4/92, para. 3.
- ARMED HUMANITARIANS by Robert C. DiPrizio p.46
- UNITED NATIONS OPERATION IN SOMALIA I, UN Dept of Peacekeeping.
- ARMED HUMANITARIANS by Robert C. DiPrizio p.48
- THE UNITED STATES AND POST-COLD WAR INTERVENTIONS 1998 by Lester H. Brune p.28
- Dorcas McCoy, "American Post-Cold War Images and Foreign Policy Preferences Toward 'Dependent' States: A Case Study of Somalia," World Affairs 163, no. 1 (Summer 2000): 43.
- James Mayall, The New Interventionism 1991-1994: United Nations Experience in Cambodia, Former Yugoslavia and Somalia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 110.
- Reuters News Agency, 1993, ‘Somalian targets hit by new air strikes Warlord accuses UN of genocide, refuses to negotiate until attacks end’, published 15/6/93 in The Globe and Mail.
- Lorch, Donatella, ‘20 Somalis Die When Peacekeepers Fire at Crowd’, The New York Times, 14/6/93.
- THE UNITED STATES AND POST-COLD WAR INTERVENTIONS 1998 by Lester H. Brune p.31
- Cowell, Alan, 1993, ‘Italy, In U.N. Rift, Threatens Recall Of Somalia Troops’, The New York Times, 16/7/93.
- Bowden, Mark (1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. New York: Signet. p. 114.
- THE UNITED STATES AND POST-COLD WAR INTERVENTIONS 1998 by Lester H. Brune p.33
- United Nations Operations in Somalia II, Background (Summary).
- THE UNITED STATES AND POST-COLD WAR INTERVENTIONS 1998 by Lester H. Brune p.33-34
- Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention By Walter Clarke and Jeffrey Herbst.
- Allard, Colonel Kenneth, Somalia Operations: Lessons Learned, National Defense University Press (1995).