Somalia Operation Restore Hope

Operation Restore Hope

Expanded peacekeeping in Somalia began after the failure of UNOSOM I accompanied by the specter of 500,000 Somalis dead from famine by the fall of 1992 and hundreds of thousands more in danger of dying. Clan violence in Somalia interfered with international famine relief efforts, and President Bush sent American troops to protect relief workers in a new operation called Restore Hope. The US-led coalition approved by the Security Council in December 1992 had a mandate of protecting humanitarian operations and creating a secure environment for eventual political reconciliation. At the same time, it had the authority to use all necessary means, including military force. A joint and multinational operation, Restore Hope--called UNITAF (unified task force)--was a US-led, UN-sanctioned operation that included protection of humanitarian assistance and other peace-enforcement operations.

While the US failed to acknowledge the political dimensions of the situation at the highest political levels (which would lead to tragic results in the second phase, UNOSOM II), Operation Restore Hope was nevertheless a humanitarian success.

On December 3rd, U.N. Security Resolution 794 authorized the U.S. led intervention "to use all necessary means to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia as soon as possible." The US Army participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia from 03 December 1992 to 4 May 1993. On 09 December 1992 the United States Marines came shore in Mogadishu and quickly established an expeditionary infrastructure to facilitate security and the delivery of food to the starving Somalis. On December 11th, the Marines established a Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) and collocated it with the U.N.'s Humanitarian Operations Center (HOC). By doing this, the CMOC quickly became the national focus point for NGO/U.S. military coordination.

During Operation Restore Hope, USCENTCOM was the unified command. It provided guidance and arranged support and resources for the operational commander. The commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) commanded a JTF/CTF composed of air, naval, Marine, Army, and special operations forces (SOF) components, in addition to the forces provided by countries contributing to the US-led, combined coalition. As the responsible unified command, USCENTCOM performed numerous tasks contributing to the success of Operation Restore Hope. Key areas included shaping a clear, achievable mission statement for the operational commander, shaping an international coalition, and orchestrating the transition to eventual UN control.

In 1992, three Ready Reserve Force vessels were activated to support the United Nation's humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in Somalia. These included two offshore petroleum discharge system (OPDS) tankers, the AMERICAN OSPREY and POTOMAC. The TS EMPIRE STATE, normally used for training students at the New York State Maritime Academy, was activated to repatriate troops from Somalia.

Although Somalia was a US Central Command responsibility, USAFE provided air refueling support at Moron Air Base, Spain, and sent contingents of security police, communicators, and postal specialists to Somalia and Kenya.

The Army force (ARFOR) AO included over 21,000 square miles. Over these distances, units conducted air assault operations, patrols, security operations, cordons and searches, and other combat operations in support of humanitarian agencies. Other ARFOR operations included building or rebuilding over 1,100 kilometers of roads, constructing two Bailey Bridges, escorting hundreds of convoys, confiscating thousands of weapons, and providing theater communications. Due to these efforts, humanitarian agencies declared an end to the food emergency, community elders became empowered, and marketplaces were revitalized and functioning.

Throughout Operation Restore Hope, MP units were in great demand because of their ability to serve as a force multiplier. Marine force (MARFOR) and ARFOR commanders quickly took advantage of the MP's significant firepower, mobility, and communications and used them effectively as a force multiplier conducting security-related missions as one of their combat forces. Doctrinal missions included security of main supply routes (MSRs), military and NGO convoys, critical facilities, and very important persons (VIPs); customs; detention of local civilians suspected of felony crimes against US force or Somali citizens; and criminal investigative division (CID) support as the JTF's executive agency for joint investigations. MPs responded to a significant number of hostile acts taken against US forces, NGOs, and civilians by armed bandits and "technicals" and to factional fighting that threatened US forces or relief efforts. They also supported the JTF weapons confiscation policy by conducting recons and gathering information and intelligence (human intelligence [HUMINT]) about the size, location, and capabilities of factions operating throughout the ARFOR and MARFOR AOs. This information included the location of sizeable weapons caches. MPs also had an expanded role in the actual confiscation of weapons by establishing checkpoints and roadblocks along MSRs, within small villages, and within the congested, confined urban environment of Mogadishu. Serving in both a combat and CS role, MPs also participated in a larger, combined arms show-of-force operation (air assault) in the city of Afgooye.

By March 1993, mass starvation had been overcome, and security was much improved. At its peak, almost 30,000 US military personnel participated in the operation, along with 10,000 personnel from twenty-four other states. Despite the absence of political agreement among the rival forces, periodic provocations, and occasional military responses by UNITAF, the coalition retained its impartiality and avoided open combat with Somali factions--blending its coercive powers with political dialogue, psychological operations, and highly visible humanitarian activities.

Operation Restore Hope demonstrated the usefulness of engineers in operations other than war. Somalia's austere landscape and climate posed challenges similar to or greater than the ones encountered during Operations Desert Shield/Storm, including a harsh desert environment, resupply over great distances limited resources. and a devastated infrastructure. The deployed engineer force was a joint and multinational effort, building on the engineer capabilities found with each service component and coalition partner. Engineers provided standard maps and imagery products, detected and cleared hundreds of land mines and pieces of unexploded ordnance built base camps for US and coalition forces, and drilled water wells. They constructed and improved over 2,000 kilometers of roads, built and repaired several Bailey bridges, upgraded and maintained airfields. and participated in local civic action projects that helped open schools, orphanages, hospitals, and local water supplies.

Operation Restore Hope demonstrated some of the problems that can be experienced as a result of incomplete or ineffective political analysis. Because the operation was purely "humanitarian" with no long-term aims, the CMOC lacked enough Army Civil Affairs personnel. Given their stellar performance during Operation Provide Comfort this at first glance appears strange. While Charlie Company, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, was sent to Somalia, none of the reserve component (despite receiving call-up orders) were ever activated. Two reasons appear in the literature; activation of such units generally implies a long-term commitment and the Marines (the short-term expeditionary unit first sent to Somalia) thought they did not need them - both reasons fitted in well with the political climate of Washington DC in late 1992.

By early 1993, sector "coordination centers" had been established in eight areas throughout Somalia. They served as focal points for civil-military priorities within that region and provided an ideal way to further the all-important NGO/military dialogue process. While there was a lack of political resolve from many of the major players, the CMOC provided the liaison capability for many of the players at the "coal face" that enabled Operation Support Hope to be the humanitarian success that it was.

On 4 May 1993 the UN-led operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II) assumed responsibility for operations.