Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
At the end of the Cold War, Americans hoped for a New World Order, and for a time put emphasis on multilateral actions authorized by the United Nations to build world peace. In Somalia, these hopes were dashed. This timeline summarizes the key facts:
1969 Mohammed Siad Barre seized power.
January 1991: Long running inter-clan violence leads to fall of Barre regime. Chaos follows. U.S. closes embassy
Nov. 1991: U.S. Department of State: no functioning government in Somalia.
Feb. 1992: Somali factions agree at UN to a cease fire.
March 1992: U.N. Security Council passes Resolution 751, authorizing 50 military "observers" be sent. UNOSOM I is begun.
April 24, 1992: April 24: U.N. sends first 50 military observers to monitor cease fire in Somalia and UNOSOM I begins. These first arrivals are from the Pakistani Armed Forces. An arms embargo against Somalia also is begun. Militias impede the movement of the observers. Observers are augmented to 500 in following months.
July 27, 1992: Secretary General reports that 4.5 million are malnourished, and 1 million children are iin danger of imminent starvation. U.N. Sec. Council Resolution 767 authorizes urgent military deployment to protect delivery of food supplies.
August: The U.S. Congress, through S. Con. Res. 132, advises Bush to lend US support for aid to Somalia (Senate acts on August 3; House on the 10th). Pres. G. H.W. Bush approves U.S. participation in the airlift on Aug. 14.
August 28, 1992: US begins limited food airlift to Somalia, "Operation Provide Relief," which chiefly is a U.S.-run airlift under the command of the US Central Command. Warlords continue to attempt to disrupt distribution to hungry. Also in August, U.N. Sec. Council Resolution 775 authorizes 3000 more troops, bringing total to 3500.
Sept. 14, 1992: First armed UN peacekeepers (Pakistanis) arrive off of US naval vessels, but fighting continues and key U.N. personnel resign in coming weeks. Disarray prevails in NGO efforts to coordinate food distribution.
Nov. 24, 1992: Pres. Bush offers U.S. troops to aid distribution of the food relief.
Dec. 3, 1992: Security Council unanimously passes UN Security Council Resolution 794 to stop deliberate impeding of the delivery of food, which it called a threat to international security, assigns to U.S. task of leading a coordinated military action under Article VII (enforcement powers) of the U.N. Charter. U.S. forces are authorized under U.N. authority, but remain under U.S. command. This multinational mission is called the Unified Task Force, or UNITAF.
Dec. 4: U.S. President Bush, in speech to to the nation, limits his objectives in Somalia. saying our goal is: ...to get food moving...(and) to prepare the way for a UN peacekeeping force to keep it moving... [We] do not plan to dictate political outcomes. His letter to the Senate (Dec. 10) stated that the US does not intend that U.S. Armed Forces deployed to Somalia become involved in hostilities.
Dec. 8-9: Led by 1300 Marines, 25,000 U.S. troops land in Somalia as U.S. Operation Restore Hope. They are joined by 7000 troops from other states to compose the UNITAF. The Task Force begins to provide security for large scale feeding of starving population by private voluntary organizations (PVOs) and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Poll: 81% of U.S. public back project. U.N. personnel in Somalia, and U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali immediately urge U.S. to widen the functions pursued by the Task Force, arguing that it should seek full disarmament of militias.
Starvation is stemmed; fighting does not end, but heavy weapons of militias are pulled back. UNITAF is more successful in Mogadishu and southern areas than elsewhere.
US confiscates 636 heavy weapons, and more than 2000 small arms.
Dec. 17: U.S. Department of Defense official Woods testifies to Congress that Somalia operation will last 2 or 3 months, only. But anthropologists and others well informed about differences in clan identities in Somalia suggest the project is much greater than advertised.
Jan. 12, 1993: First U.S. Marine killed in fighting in Somalia.
Feb. 4: S.J. Res. 45 passes Senate. It supports the December deployment, but requires Congressional approval if combat is to begin.
March 26, 1993: U.N. Security Council Resolution 814 authorizes UNOSOM II under Article VII of the U.N. Charter, enlarging the mandate to include consolidation and expansion of a secure environment; political reconciliation leading to a new government; and disarmament and demoblization of militias. Use of force is authorized whenever necessary, a first in the history of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations. UNISOM II will seek to continue to protect the relief efforts and will:
-disarm all factions
-enforce arms embargo
-secure administration of the country by 2800 UN personnel.
May 4, 1993: U.S. hands over control of operation to U.N.; about 3000 US troops remain, but most are not combat units. UNOSOM II, with units of many member states under the command of a Turkish Lt. General, Cevik Bir, takes over security. UN forces will now seek to end clan violence.
May 5-25: First Senate, then House pass S.J.Res. 45 which authorizes U.S. involvement in Somalia for one year.
June 5, 1993: 24 Pakistani U.N. soldiers killed (58 wounded) by Aideed's militia.
June 6, 1993: U.N. Security Council Resolution 837 authorizes "all necessary measures" be used against those responsible for the attack the day before. A $25,000 reward for Aideed's capture is offered. This development divides states with troops in the PKO; France and Italy begin giving direct orders to their personnel, outside the U.N. chain of command.
July 23, 1993: First of 1700 German troops arrive, a first since WWII.
August 8 and 22, 1993: U.S. forces attacked. Pres. Clinton dispatches units of the Delta Force to Somalia to capture Aideed. These crack troops remain outside UNOSOM II command, and are commanded by the U.S. Central Command (in Florida). By Fall, 4700 U.S. troops will again be in Somalia.
Sept. 9, 1993: U.S. gun ships engage in a fire fight with Aideed militia. Sen. Byrd introduces amendment to Defense Authorization bill that proposes to end funding to the US Somalia operation. It passes.
Sept. 22: U.N. Security Council Resolution 865 reaffirms earlier resolutions, announcing a goal of Somalian national elections for March 1995.
Sept. 27: U.S. President Clinton announces a March 31, 1994 deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces. The next day, the House passes language similar to the Byrd Amendment.
Oct. 3, 1993: A group of US Army Rangers and Delta Force personnel, operating separately from the U.N. forces, is trapped by Aideed's militia: 18 US die, and 77 are wounded (additionally, 1000 Somalis die). (This incident is commemorated in the moving 2001 film "Black Hawk Down," directed by Ridley Scott.) Three days later Clinton announces 5300 more US troops will go to Somalia and will stay until March 31, 1994. But the mission to capture Aideed is suspended, and Aideed then declares a cease fire. For more information, follow this link.
Oct. 6: 142 Republicans in Congress send letter to Clinton demanding prompt withdrawal of all US troops. The next day, in a televised speech, Clinton states all troops will be out by March 31, 1994, but that mission will continue until then. Six days later, a Clinton letter to Congress clarifies that mission does not include nation building in Somalia.
Oct. 15: U.S. Senate votes 76-23 to cut all funding for Somalia project after March 31, 1994. (McCain Amendment to force a prompt withdrawal is defeated, 61-38).
Oct. 19: U.S. Gen. T. Montgomery declares US troops will no longer participate in joint patrols with other nations' U.N. assigned forces in Somalia.
Nov. 11: Clinton signs bill stipulating the March 31 withdrawal deadline.
Nov. 16: U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 885, calling for an international commission to address Somalian reconstruction, and suspending efforts to arrest Aideed.
Nov. 18: U.N. Security Council extends UNOSOM II for six more months.
Jan. 3, 1994: U.N. relief workers evacuated from Somalia. Secretary General Boutros-Ghali suspends use of coercive methods; mission will become one resembling traditional peacekeeping role.
March 25, 1994: Last U.S. troops are evacuated from Somalia. Thirty have died, 175 have been wounded. 19,000 other U.N. forces remain.
May 31: U.N. Security Council extends UNOSOM II for six more months.
Nov. 4: UN Security Council unanimously votes to withdraw all remaining UN forces from Somalia by March 21, 1995.
Feb. 27-March 2, 1995: 1800 U.S. Marines assist in final evacuation of remaining 2500 U.N. peacekeepers in Somalia. U.N. costs totaled $2 billion, 1992-95.
May 11: New York Times reports fighting over looted goods has resumed in Somalia.
June: Aideed faction calls for return of U.N. to help rebuild.
Sept: Fighting among clan militias resumes in Somalia.
June 24, 1996: Heavy fighting breaks out between factions of the Aideed militias.
Aug. 1, 1996: Mohammed Farah Aideed, leader of the most anti-American faction, dies as a result of wounds. Rival Mahdi calls for a cease fire; it collapses ten days later. His son, Hussein Mohaned Aideed, takes the reins of his father's militia.
Fall 1996: Border clashes between Ethiopia and Somali militias.
December 18, 1996: 300+ die in fighting in capital.
1997: Lawlessness and absence of government plagues the failed state of Somalia
December 22: In Cairo, Egypt, clan/militia leaders reach an accord, brokered by Egyptian diplomats. It calls for the end of factional fighting and establishes a three year interim government to be led by the top officials of the three largest clans. Aideed and Mahdi factions ink this accord, but warlord Hassan Osman Ali refuses to sign it.
February 1: Truce takes effect, and private NGOs begin to return to Somalia.
February 15: Rival militias again dual south of Mogadishu; 4 die.
April 15: Gunmen abduct 9 Red Cross and 1 Red Crescent workers; Red Cross evacuates all personnel from Somalia the next day; abducted workers are freed April 24.
September 27: Militia fighters loyal to warlord Hassan Osman Ali attack a food convoy of the World Food Program, a private NGO, in south central Somalia. The convoy had been guarded by the Aideed militia.
July 6: Somalia Aid Coordination Body, a coalition of donor states and NGOs, issues a report stating that fighting and lack of rain have made one million Somalis vulnerable to starvation, again.
August 18: U.N. issues a report declaring that Somalia has become a "black hole" of anarchy, lacking all elements of statehood, especially noting the lack of government and police. It alleges that most violence there is criminal, not political, in nature.
August 14: 1000 Somali clan elders and politicians meet in Djibouti to make peace. They propose a 245 member parliament elect a new president.
August 26: New Parliament, meeting in Djibouti, elects Abdikassim Salad Hassan as President of Somalia. He is a former Deputy Prime Minister under the Barre regime. Warlords in Mogadishu, however, declare that Salad has no authority and that they will prevent him from taking office.
October 11: Militia members of militias not agreeing to the new Government fire on members of New Parliament as they arrive in Mogadishu. No legislators are injured by 10 civilians are, and one dies.
October 20: Pres. Salad's appointed Prime Minister, Ali Khalif Galaydh, names a 25 member Cabinet, the first government of Somalia in more than 10 years. All major clans are represented; no militia warlords are among the appointees.
January: Resistance to the Salad Government by militia leader Hassan Muhammad Nur leads to the abduction of the Speaker of the new parliament, as he an 200 others are travelling in the Bakol region of Western Somalia.
March: Abductions of U.N. and other aid workers jeopardize continued international assistance.
October 28: A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister (Ali Khalif Galaydh) and his cabinet ends 13 months of semi-stable rule in the capital area; all power reverts to Pres. Salad. New PM is appointed in late November.
November: Breakaway province Puntland in northern Somalia (which declared independence in 1998) is scene of militia overthrow of central government representatives. Confused situation results after reported Ethiopian troops enter area.
Dec. 24: New peace accord among clans, Salad promises end to violence; cooperation in international "War on Terrorism".
April: Ethiopian-backed militias form rival government in Baidoa.
A CIA funded program to enlist various clan and militia leaders to target Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia is begun during 2002, and lasts until 2006 (Anderson: 73). When it collapses, indigenous Somali Islamist groups begin to attempt to seize control of Somalia.
April 15: Osama bin Laden statement claims that Al Qaeda was responsible for driving U.S. from Somalia ten years earlier: "Also, killing them in Somalia was after their invasion of it in Operation Restore Hope. We made them leave without hope, praise be to God."
Oct. 10: Warlord Abdullahi Yusuf is made acting president of Somalia by an interim parliament meeting in Kenya, establishing his government at Baidoa, Somalia later in the year.
Jan. 5: The African Union agrees to send troops to Somalia to assist the new Somali Government establish itself in power in Mogadishu.
June 18: Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi and his cabinet and Parliament return to Somalia after years in exile in Kenya.
June: Radicals of the "Islamic Courts" faction take control of Mogadishu.
July 20-21: Ethiopian troops first enter Somalia; "Islamic Courts" declare jihad against Ethiopians.
October 25: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi states that his country is "technically at war" with the Islamic Courts faction in Somalia.
December 6: U.N. Security Council authorizes intervention on behalf of the transitional government, giving its approval for an African force authorized by the African Union to enter Somalia. Islamists reject U.N. and A.U. efforts on behalf of Pres. Yusuf and the transitional government, and declare that any intervention means war.
December 8: After numerous reported skirmishes between the sides, spokesmen for the "Islamic Courts" announce their troops have fought against an army of invading Ethiopians near Baidoa.
Dec. 23: Rejecting European efforts to mediate, "Islamic Courts" troops attack forces loyal to Pres. Yusuf.
Dec. 24: Ethiopia publicly acknowledges that its troops are in Somalia fighting the "Islamic Courts" movement. The next day, Ethiopian aircraft bomb Mogadishu airport. Over the next several days, troops of the transitional government of Somalia loyal to Pres. Yusuf coordinate their forces with the Ethiopians to rout the "Islamic Courts" in several provinces. On Dec. 28, the "Islamic Courts" flee Mogadishu as the Ethiopian Army escorts troops loyal to Pres. Yusuf into the city, but masked gunmen appear on streets of parts of Mogadishu calling for resistance to the invaders.
Jan. 1: Ethiopian troops and Somali troops fighting together expel militias loyal to the "Islamic Courts" from the port city of Kismayo, the last major city held by the "Council of Islamic Courts" movement (C.I.C.). Pres. Yusaf declared victory. The U.S. conducted two air strikes against radical Islamist targets this month in support of the Ethiopian operation and in pursuit of U.S. counter-terrorism goals. AC-130 gunships were used.
January: 8000 Ugandan troops sent by the African Union to restore order and to perform as peacekeepers in Somalia arrive. By March, about 1700 of the Ugandans are stationed in Mogadishu arrive. As security conditions begin to improve, Ethiopian armed forces begin to withdraw from provincial areas, but security in Mogadishu remained tenuous. An Islamist insurgency began to appear. Troops from Burundi also participated.
March: Armed gangs loyal to the new "Islamic Courts" movement lead resistance to new Somali Government led by Pres. Yusuf, and the capital descends into chaos. In Mogadishu, international relief efforts are hampered by this fighting. Wounded combatants are dragged through the streets by angry crowds.
March 23: A large jet Ilyushin-76 aircraft owned by Belarus, delivering supplies to African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, is shot down by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 11 on board.
March 30: International Committee of the Red Cross reports the "heaviest fighting in 15 years" in Mogadishu; wounded casualties overwhelm hospitals. On this day an Ethiopian helicopter also is shot down by a surface to air missile, or other ground fire, in Mogadishu.
Resistance to the government of Pres. Yusaf by gunmen allied to the Council of Islamic Courts (C.I.C.), and by various clans continued throughout 2007-2008. Heavy fighting between these factions and forces loyal to Pres. Yusaf, including Ethiopian and Ugandan Army troops, punctuated the first months of 2008.
In March 2008, and again on May 1, 2008, U.S. Armed Forces launched aerial attacks. In the May 1 attack, Al Qaeda leader in Somalia Aden Hashi Ayro was killed as were two important leaders of the newly emerged radical Islamist al-Shabaab militia (which means "the lads") that supports the C.I.C. (See AP and Al Jazeera reports on this incident).
October 29: In a series of 5 coordinated suicide attacks by al-Shabaab members, U.S. citizen of Somali descent Shirwa Ahmed, formerly of Minneapolis, was confirmed to be one of the suicide bombers.
December: after attempting to fire his Prime Minister, and faced with the imminent withdrawal of Ethiopian and African Union armed forces, Pres. Yusaf resigned and fled Somalia. An interim constitutional government led by the Prime Minister attempted to consolidate power in the capital, but militias allied with the al-Shabaab continued to gain in strength. Outside the central and south, pirates continued to dominate Puntland (on the Horn of Africa), and Somaliland in the north remained an essentially separate territory.
January 15: after 2 years of occupation, and facing increasingly stiffening resistance from Islamist militias and clan gangs, Ethiopia withdrew its armed forces from Mogadishu, and the rest of Somalia (though their full withdrawal from all Somali territories could not be confirmed due to the uncertain security situation). This was the result of a diplomatic initiative conducted in Djibouti, and as part of it, one leader of Islamic militias, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, agreed to have his supporters join the government. In exchange, the size of the Parliament was enlarged to accommodate his backers, and in the subsequent balloting there to choose a new President, Sharif won. A veteran and founder of the Islamic Courts movement, his new government was denounced by the al-Shabaab militia, which also had originated in the Islamic Courts movement.
February: Various U.S. news organizations reported new FBI investigations and arrests involving cases of Somalis living in the U.S., chiefly in the Minneapolis, MN area, who have disappeared in recent months and who are believed to have returned to Somalia for terrorist training. See:
- Spencer Hsu and Carrie Johnson, "Somali Americans Recruited by Extremists: U.S. Cites Case of Minnesotan Killed in Suicide Blast in Africa," Washington Post (March 11, 2009): 1, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/10/AR2009031003901.html
- Dan Ephron and Mark Hosenball, "Recruited for Jihad?" Newsweek (Feb. 2, 2009): http://www.newsweek.com/id/181408/output/print ; permanent link.
March: in an attempt to deflate the appeal of the Al Qaeda-aligned Al Shabaab and other Islamist factions, authorities in Mogadishu announced that shari'a (Islamic) law would thereafter be the law of the land. Fighting continued.
April 7-8: In the sixth such seizure of foreign vessels in a week, pirates briefly took control over the American-owned Maersk Alabama, but the American crew was able to retake control of the ship within a day. U.S. Navy SEALS on the USS Bainbridge shot and killed 3 of 4 pirates who had detained the captain on a smaller boat, and the fourth pirate was captured. Somali pirates still held 18 foreign ships for ransom at that time, chiefly at the pirate-dominated port of Eyl, in the largely autonomous Puntland region, in blue on map above. Piracy continued throughout the year.
Sept. 14: U.S. Special Forces attack and kill Al Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in territory controlled by the Shabaab militia. The raid was launched from a naval vessel and included an unprecedented ground landing by U.S. Special Forces troops, who retrieved the bodies of the four killed terrorists so that DNA identificiation of them could confirm who they were. Nabhan, a leader of the al-Shabaab, was involved in the 1998 attack on the U.S. Embassies at Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania (DeYoung and Pincus: 15).
December 2009: Sharif Government has failed to establish its authority even throughout the city of Mogadishu; Somalia remains essentially without a government, with warlords, clan militias, forces loyal to Sharif, and the al-Shabaab Islamist movement each asserting control over parts of the country.
April 2010: With increasing numbers of Somali pirates in captivity, where they properly should be tried for their crimes became an issue. On April 27, 2010, voices arguing that the proper venue for trials of the Somali pirates is a U.N. court, not the national courts of impacted states, gained traction. Though trials were proceeding that month in German courts and in a U.S. tribunal in Norfolk, Virginia, the Security Council on that date passed a Russian-sponsored resolution calling for such an international U.N.-run court to be established to try the pirates. Meanwhile, warships of the member states of the European Union and of the United States continued to patrol off the Somali coast in order to protect merchant shipping from continuing attacks by Somali pirates.
For more current information on the roles being played by U.S. Armed Forces in the region surrounding Somalia, visit the website of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti.
For more current information on the role being played in the prevention and interception of piracy in waters adjacent to Somalia, visit the website of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, based in Bahrain.
For background, consult these sources:
Jon Lee Anderson, "The Most Failed State: Letter from Mogadishu," New Yorker (Dec. 14, 2009): 64-75: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/12/14/091214fa_fact_anderson .
Bronwyn Bruton, "In the Quicksands of Somalia: Where doing less helps more," Foreign Affairs (November / December 2009): http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65462/bronwyn-bruton/in-the-quicksands-of-somalia
Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, "Success Against Al-Qaeda Cited," Washington Post (September 30, 2009): 1, 15.
Other resources on this website:
U.S. Armed Forces in Somalia, 1992-1994
return to Political Science Supplements page
return to Professor Bowen's main page