Nunn Criticizes U.N. Hunt for Somali Warlord Aidid


Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn, a key figure in the upcoming congressional debate on Somalia, Sunday criticized the U.N. manhunt for Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid and said that Congress should take action to compel the Clinton Administration to “narrow the mission” being performed by U.S. forces in Mogadishu.

Interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the Georgia Democrat said that a “fundamental mistake” was made in Somalia when the aims of the U.N. peacekeeping mission were broadened even as the number of U.S. troops taking part in it was reduced.

Nunn also questioned the value of continuing the massive U.N. hunt for Aidid, the rebel Somali warlord whose forces are blamed for the deaths of 56 peacekeepers, including seven Americans, since the United Nations assumed command of the peacekeeping operation last May.


In the latest attack, which has already brought renewed congressional calls for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia, three U.S. servicemen were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade over an Aidid stronghold in Mogadishu early Saturday.

The dead were identified Sunday as Sgt. Ferdinan C. Richardson, 27, of Watertown, N.Y.; Sgt. Eugene Williams, 26, of Chicago, and Pfc. Matthew K. Anderson, 21, of Lucas, Iowa. Richardson was based at Ft. Drum, N.Y., while the other two were based at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Suggesting that Aidid could not have long evaded capture or so successfully stymied the U.N. peacekeeping operation without enjoying popular support, Nunn said he did not believe that “capturing one person is going to end” the opposition to the U.N. mission.

Nunn noted reports from Mogadishu that described Somalis as dancing in the streets after the Americans were killed. He called the reaction “disgusting and tragic and deplorable” but added that it may “also tell us something about the popular sentiment” toward the U.N. mission.

Although Nunn stopped short of calling for a speedy withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces in Somalia, he said that the Clinton Administration needs to better define and narrow the mission and begin searching for a way out--or face the prospect that Congress will do it instead.