Death squads, CIA weapon deliveries to rebels, covert operations with a licence to kill: The covert warfare of the United States with the involvement of European countries has disastrous consequences, says Jeremy Scahill. In Somalia the US has created death squads consisting of warlords, destroyed the Islamic Courts Union and enabled the rise of the terror group al-Shabaab that recently attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi. In Syria the CIA delivers weapons to rebels, among them elements of al-Qaida with the usual risk of a blow-back. Afghanistan is a failed and unjustified war for Scahill which has made Afghan life even more miserable. The US is going to keep special forces there even after the official end of the occupation next year – European countries assisting them. The killing of Bunjamin E. from Germany in Pakistan by a US drone is raising questions about the role of the German government in the US assassination program.
Jeremy Scahill: National Security correspondent of "The Nation", author of "Dirty Wars. The World Is a Battlefield" and "Blackwater. The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army"
David Goessmann: The attack by al-Shabaab militias in a Nairobi mall has been extensively covered. But there was almost no reporting about how this fundamentalist group evolved. Talk about that and the significance of the attack.
Jeremy Scahill: I personally have spent time in that mall including at the Art Café where many of the attackers first penetrated the West Gate mall. that shopping centre is a well known centre for a lot of Westerners, Diplomats, wealthy people, business people, journalists and others frequent that shopping mall. So I think that Al Shabaab chose that target with the intention of trying to kill Westerners. A lot of the media coverage of this incident simply focuses on the fact that this is a terrorist organization and they committed this terror attack but the roots of that group are very interesting and in many ways they are a product of Americas foreign policy. When the regime of Siad Barre fell in Somalia in the early 1990s you had the era of gangsterism and warlords taking over and really destroying Somalia and they were murderous thugs After 9/11 the U.S. was concerned that there was the possibility for Al Quaida Elements to begin organizing in Somalia because of the lawlessness of the state. In reality there were only about a dozen or so people of Al Quaida based inside of Somalia at that time but the U.S. wanted to go into any country where they determined to be a threat and take these people out. They actually considered invading Somalia early after 9/11 but ultimately decided instead to put warlords on the CIA payroll and to have these warlords hunt down Islamic militants or suspected Al Quaida members or terrorists. And basically what happened was that these warlords took the money from the CIA and the admission from the U.S. and they turned into death squads and they started just butchering people, killing people who had long beards and suspicion they where Al Quaida and in some cases they chopped peoples heads off and bring them to an American base in Dschibuti and say „Hey look we killed this terrorist.“ It was just sort of murder across the board. And what happened is that a coalition of what we call Islamic Sharia Courts from different regions of Somalia formed a movement to overthrow the CIA warlords and they expelled them from Mogadishu in 2006 and they stabilized the city for the first time since the early 1990s and they declared an Islamic government. There were 12 Islamic courts and there was a 13th member of those courts and it was called Harakat al-Shabab Mujahideen commonly known as Al Shabaab. And this was a relatively unimportant small group of radicals who also had some foreign elements among them, they where dshihadists who would come to Somalia to fight against these warlords. But they where irrelevant in context of Somali politics because they were not powerful in the Clan system there. The U.S. under George W. Bush was afraid of anything that had Islamic in the title and the U.S. covertly partnered with the Ethiopian military and they invaded Somalia. And they began hunting the leaders of the Islamic courts union and they basically dessimated the group and destroyed that government. And what happened as a result of that was that this group Al Shabaab who was relatively nobody in Somalia all of a sudden became the vanguard in the fight against the U.S. and Ethiopia. And they brabbeled to make an argument that there was a foreign occupation in an Islamic country by non-Islamic forces and they started to draw foreign fighters coming into Somalia. Somalia had never been a place that welcomed foreign fighters before so it was an incredible victory for al-Quaida to be able to get a foothold in Somalia. And so Al Shabaab was able to conquer territory in Somalia and hold it for some years and use it as a base to stage terrorist operations. So without the U.S. and Ethiopian interference in Somalia it is very hard to imagine how Al Shabaab would have become the terror force that it is today.
David Goessmann: What is your assessment of the situation in Syria, the al-Qaida presence there and Obama’s failed attempt to intervene militarily?
Jeremy Scahill: First of all the U.S. is intervening in Syria right now you have the CIA funnelling weapons and strategic support to certain factions of the rebels, you have Russia, Iran, Hisbollah, Qatar, Turkey, all intervening in Syria. I mean this is a civil war with major world powers intervening on various sides of the conflict. The U.S. is aiding what we generally call the rebels but its unclear who the rebels are. There are different factions, some of them who are explicitly linked to, if not Al Quaida directly, the ideas and visions of Al Quaida. And so I see that the U.S. is potentially getting involved in another Afghanistan type scenario as we had when the U.S. tried to expel the Soviets, funding the Mudshaheddin, what we call the Arab foreign fighters in Afghanistan only to have them come back and hit the U.S. decades later. In English we call it Blow-back. When Obama was trying to move forward with the plan to conduct missile strikes on Syria it was met with fierce opposition in the U.S. I think the American public is sick of this wars, sick of paying for them and didn’t see an actual U.S. interest there. But I think Obama was pretty intent on trying to attack Syria. And perhaps this Russian deal that they made was already in the pocket of Obama and when he realized he was not able to sell the war he brought it out and used it to safe his face.
David Goessmann: You have travelled to Afghanistan several times, spoke to the people, listened to their stories and grievances. What do Afghans think about the war and 12 years of occupation? And what is your opinion? Was it a necessary war without alternatives – commonly claimed by the mainstream press?
Jeremy Scahill: I’ll answer the last part of your question first. I don’t think that it was a necessary war, I do think that the U.S. had a right to try to bring the justice to the people who were responsible for the organizing and planning 9/11 attacks. You know I interviewed the former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakkil who was in the Taliban government when they were governing Afghanistan and he was the person responsible negotiating with Osama Bin Laden about his presence inside of Afghanistan and he said that they have communicated a message to the U.S. that the Taliban did not want war and that they would be willing to hand Osama Bin Laden over to an Islamic country to be trialled in a Sharia Court if the U.S. provided evidence that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the U.S. never responded to the Taliban government, and said that they would not negotiate with them. You don’t always have to take the grain of salt what the Taliban said but I don’t think the U.S. flipped at all the diplomatic options that there would have been to try to apprehend the individuals responsible for 9/11 or at the leadership of Al Quaida. Now that the U.S. and the NATO have been in Afghanistan for over a decade now I think its clear that its a failed war. There are parts of Afghanistan that I think have benefited from the U.S. and NATO presence, areas where the Taliban was not indigenously popular and they were implementing an essentially a program on the people, women and girls are better off in certain areas of Afghanistan but for much of the country it’s just gotten worse. Not only they are still governed by Taliban forces but they also have the added deaths and injuries that come with military occupation. So I think in some areas the U.S. and NATO have made it exponentially worse for the average Afghan. But there is no such think as average Afghan opinion it depends on were you are but in general I think that this war has resulted in making it more miserable and making lives worse for people in Afghanistan.
David Goessmann: Troops have started to leave Afghanistan. But even after the official end of the occupation next year there will still be US and Nato troops. The US wants to keep nine military bases in Afghanistan – officially for training purposes. What is the strategy behind that?
Jeremy Scahill: They always claim that they are just training people, I mean much of the Vietnam war was fought by American trainers. The strategy of the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan going forward is that they have teams of special operation forces that are going to remain in the region and are having the ability to strike inside of these countries for many many years to come, that is also the case with the Central Intelligence Agency. European nations will be involved with it to one extent or another. You know in neighbouring Pakistan the U.S. conducted a Drone strike in Waziristan in 2010 that killed a German citizen and that’s the subject of litigations here in Germany. And I think there are serious questions about what was the role of the German government in this, did they have full knowledge of the strike, did they share intelligence with the Americans? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I think the German government should have to answer to the role they are playing to any assassination operation going forward and from the past.