Mogadishu, Somalia — Another raid suspected of being carried out by U.S. and Somali joint special operations units has captured a senior operations and logistics expert known as Abdirizak Hussein Tahlil on July 23rd. Tahlil, also known as Ilka Ase, a well-known facilitator for the Somalia based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab, was captured near the town of Galkayo within the north-central region of Galmudug State.
Tahlil is well-known by the security forces within the region for providing weapons and explosives to an al-Shabaab ‘assassination squad’ operating within the north-central region of Somalia. Tahlil, among other things, surprisingly has lived in the United States and may still hold a U.S. citizenship.
Tahlil was captured by African Union forces in late 2012 along with the leader of the al-Shabaab assassination squad, Mohamed Nuh Adan also known as Abu Hafsa. Both were charged with attempting to commit acts of terrorism in a Puntland State court and sentenced to death. However, two years later both were mysteriously released with full pardons granted to them by the Puntland State government and disappeared back into the al-Shabaab terror network.
In an email to SOFREP, U.S. African Command Media Relations Officer, Captain Jennifer Dyrcz confirmed the capture of Tahlil stating,
“On July 23rd the Somali National Security Forces detained Abdirizak Tahlil as a suspected associate of al Shabaab accused of facilitating the use of improvised explosive devices in Somalia. He is currently being detained by the Somali government.” In addition, Dyrcz also confirmed that Tahlil was in fact a resident of the United States saying that, “Tahlil was reportedly granted status as a lawful permanent resident and resided in the United States between 2006 and 2009.” When asked whether Tahlil is still a U.S. Citizen, Captain Dyrcz replied, “The question of whether a person is or remains a lawful permanent resident after his departure from the United States is a fact-specific question that depends on a variety of factors. Additional review by other federal government agencies, to include the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, would be required prior to any determination regarding Tahlil’s status.”
Dyrcz stated that it’s still too premature to speculate whether or not Tahlil will face prosecution in the United States for his terrorist activities within Somalia. However when pressed on U.S. forces in the region’s role in this operation she had this to say, “This mission was led by the Somali National Security Forces with limited tactical advisory support from U.S. forces. The U.S. support provided in this case was consistent with other support provided to our Somali partners in their ongoing efforts to address al-Shabaab threat in the region.”
Typically, the term “advisor” has been the moniker placed on counter-insurgency operations of the U.S. Special Operations, namely the U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets who have been working within Africa for some years. One of the Green Berets core advisory functions within Africa is known as Foreign Internal Defense, or FID. FID, which as defined by the U.S. Army, involves training host-nation allied countries military forces to fight terrorist activity and protect their citizens from aggressors in other foreign countries. Internal defense specialists must have a close, working relationship with the host nation’s economic, military, and diplomatic specialists in order to deter terroristic and other foreign threats.
Recently the Ft. Bragg based Green Berets of the 3rd Special Forces Group who historically conducted special operations within Africa have reclaimed its African mission after years of focusing exclusively on operations within Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. The focus of these Green Beret Operational Detachment Alpha’s (ODA) will be within Central Africa to focus on the eradication of the terror group Boko Haram as well as operations within West Africa to degrade al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) influence and destroy their terrorist capabilities. Interestingly left out of the Green Berets Area of Responsibility (AOR) is the East African region of the Horn of Africa.
So who’s conducting special operations in the Horn of Africa?
The Horn of Africa falls under the command of U.S. African Command and its current commander U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who in April was tasked by the Trump administration to take the terror group al-Shabaab to task and assist the Somali government in destroying the terror group. A part of the Trump administration’s new stance on operations within the Horn of Africa was a more streamlined authorization process in regards to airstrikes as well as authorizing U.S. Special Operations commandos to accompany their Somali counter-parts on ground operations like the one conducted on the 23rd.
Somalia falls on the shoulders of the Combined Joint task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) which is based out of Camp Lemonnier in the Republic of Djibouti, its been widely reported that operators from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been launching counter-terrorism operations out of the camp for some time now. Also operating out of the same camp are teams from the U.S. Navy SEALs who are known to have conducted foreign internal defense (FID) missions along with joint direct action (DA) missions in and around the Horn of Africa since 2003.
However, recently there is another force within the U.S. Navy that also conducts the very same FID and DA missions, a force that mirrors the same capabilities of the U.S. Army Green Berets. The force is the United States Marine Corps Special Operation Command (MARSOC) known as the Marine Raider Regiment based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The Raiders of MARSOC have seen extensive combat deployments in Afghanistan since 2007 along with various other deployments globally in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) starting in 2013. Since the draw-down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan the budget for Operation Enduring Freedom has since shifted to the CJTF-HOA and its counter-terrorism efforts in Africa.
So are the Marine Special Operations Raiders conducting joint special operations in East Africa? There is no clear evidence as of yet to support this claim; however, the recent raid on Sunday along with several other joint US-Somali special operations raids within Somalia, fall well within MARSOC’s full-spectrum special operations mission set. It doesn’t truly matter who or what special operations unit is conducting these missions; what does matter is that U.S. Special Operations are in fact being executed in Somalia and more than likely across the Horn of Africa.
Feature image courtesy of: USAFRICOM