According to Alex De Waal (1998), U.S. helicopters fired at least 50,000 Alpha 165 and 63 rockets on 3 October 1993 during the course of the battle near the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu, in which eighteen U.S. soldiers died and one was captured. "The importance of this inglorious episode in American military history lies not only in the as-yet-undocumented carnage among the residents of Somalia's capital city," he says, "but in what it tells us about U.S. military doctrine" (131). To better understand what exactly went wrong and if, indeed, anything went right, this briefing paper will provide the background and an analysis of the Battle of Mogadishu in general, and the 10th Mountain Division's involvement during the actual major conflict in particular. A summary of the research, doctrinal implications and relevant recommendations will be provided in the conclusion.
Background and Overview
The analysts at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report that when the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in January 1991, the country of Somalia experiencing devastating factional fighting and anarchy; in May of 1991, the northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland. While this entity is not officially recognized by any government, it has managed to survive. In October 2004, President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed established a new Transitional Federal Government (TFG) with a 275-member parliament; however, the transitional leadership has not moved to Mogadishu to date. There are ongoing discussions concerning the creation of a new government in Mogadishu taking place in Kenya, but a number of powerful warlords and local factional fighting for control of Mogadishu continue, as well as for other southern regions on the country. The CIA adds that "Suspicion of Somali links with global terrorism further complicates the picture" (Somalia 5).
Breakdown of Events of October 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia.
According to De Wall, the Somalia initiative led by the U.S. was named Operation Restore Hope; the effort was launched in December 1992 in response to "shocking -- and carefully orchestrated -- images of anarchy and starvation in Somalia, with the mandate of 'creating a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian relief'" (De Wall 132). Despite the heroic efforts of the troops on the ground and those in support of them, there were fundamental problems associated with the manner in which the effort was prosecuted that were further exacerbated by the little understood political and social climate in which these efforts were being pursued. In this regard, De Wall emphasizes:
Eight months later it turned into the greatest U.S. military humiliation since Vietnam. In three months of urban counter-guerilla warfare against the unpaid, irregular but resourceful militia of General Mohamed Farah Aidid in Mogadishu city, U.S. military doctrines of overwhelming force and near-zero American casualties came unstuck. The culmination was the 3 October battle, after which pictures of a dead U.S. pilot being dragged through the streets by a jeering crowd and the plight of another taken prisoner of war -- 'hostage' in the White House's preferred terminology -- forced a truce and U.S. withdrawal. (35)
Taken together, these events suggest a profound failure on the part of the American intelligence at some point in their inability to determine the nature of the political, social and military setting in which the American troops were deployed. In his book, Mars Unmasked: The Changing Face of Urban Operations, Edwards (2000) reports that the crisis actually began on the night of October 3, 1993 when a patrol comprised of a company of U.S. Rangers and a Delta Force commando squadron attempted a hostage-taking operation amid a gathering of Habr Gidr clan leaders in the heart of Mogadishu; the targets were two warlord lieutenants. The plan of action was to secure any hostages and transport them back to base on a convoy of twelve vehicles, a distance of approximately 3 miles (see map in Figure 1 below); however, the patrol was ambushed and experiencing overwhelming firepower during an 18-hour battle. Furthermore, the scene was complicated even more when two Blackhawk helicopters crashed; in all, eighteen Americans were killed during the fighting (Edwards 13).
Figure 1. Map of Battle of Mogadishu, October 1993.
Source: Edwards 14.
The helicopter assault force was consisted of approximately 75 Special Forces Rangers and 40 Delta Force troops deployed in 17 helicopters; Edwards notes that the light infantry force on the ground was equipped with…