As he is required by law, President Obama yesterday informed Congress that the U.S. military provided assistance to France in its failed rescue attempt of a French secret agent, who has been held by al-Qaida in Somalia since 2009.
According to the president, U.S. forces “provided limited technical support,” but “took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage.”
“United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed,” the president wrote. “These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation.”
Somali terrorists are considered a threat against the West, which is why Obama said the U.S. involvement was “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests, and pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as commander in chief and chief executive.”
The president is required under the war powers resolution to tell policymakers within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action without congressional authorization.
According to the U.S., all American forces were out of Somalia by 8 p.m.
But unfortunately, the French rescue mission was a failure.
Not only did the French operation fail to free the agent, officially known as Denis Allex (believed to be an alias), but a French soldier was killed and another is missing and may now be a hostage himself. In addition, the French believe Allex was killed, although the militants deny it.
The French ministry said 17 members of the Somali al-Shabab guerrilla group were killed in the operation.
“The [French] victims’ families have been informed,” the ministry said in a statement. “The Defense Ministry addresses them its most sincere condolences and joins in their grief.”
Allex, an agent in the French intelligence service, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), was captured along with a colleague when they checked into a hotel in Mogadishu in July 2009, posing as journalists. While Allex’s colleague escaped his captors a month later, Allex remained in the Islamists’ hands in what the Defense Ministry described as “inhumane conditions.”
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a news conference that “everything indicates” Allex was killed by his captors during the assault by DGSE commandos at his place of imprisonment at Bulomarer, an Islamist-controlled town about 70 miles southwest of Mogadishu.
However, al-Shabab issued a statement saying Allex is still alive, but will be “judged within two days” for his relation to the attack, suggesting he would be executed. Al-Shabab said they also had the wounded French soldier.
“In the end, it will be the French citizens who will taste the inevitable bitter consequences of the irresponsible attitude of their government with regard to the hostages,” the group added.
While French officials will be given credit in France for their aggression in trying to rescue a citizen held hostage for so long, President Francois Hollande will have many questions to answer for launching the rescue operation at the same time as they began a military intervention in Mali — during which they killed over 100 rebels.
While Le Drian said the two were “totally unconnected,” French experts indicated the DGSE acted because it had obtained new information that enabled them to pinpoint Allex’s place of detention with a previously unavailable precision.