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Somalia Operations:   Lessons Learned


The American mission in Somalia presented U.S. forces with a variety of difficult operational challenges as they tried to bring peace to a country ravaged by natural and man-made disasters. After initial success in the summer of 1992 in restoring order and saving thousands of lives, American soldiers clashed with Somali forces and were withdrawn in the spring of 1994. In the months that followed, we have studied what the Somalia experience can teach us about peace missions and learned how we might improve our capabilities across the spectrum of joint operations.

This book represents the first time a new tool—the Joint Universal Lessons Learned System—is being used to evaluate an operation in its totality. With it, Colonel Kenneth Allard assesses the operation from its early stages of humanitarian relief through the de facto combat of peace enforcement. He has organized the lessons learned for ease of reading and enlivened them with numerous concrete and anecdotal examples. Although focused on the operational level, the insights of this study should be of interest to strategists and policymakers as well.

Lessons are only truly learned when we incorporate them into our planning, doctrine, tactics, and training—a process which can take some time. The author has taken the essential first step by identifying and articulating the hard lessons of Somalia with candor and objectivity. But even as we resolve not to repeat mistakes, we should not allow the tragic events in the latter stages of our Somalia operations to obscure the many things we did right. These too are lessons, ones to build upon as we prepare to meet further challenges in the complex world of peace operations.


           ERVIN J. ROKKE
           Lieutentant General, U.S. Air Force
           President, National Defense University

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