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SEAL Team 6: Somalia rescue illustrates new US military strategy

The Obama administration has spoken of the need for a 'smaller, more agile' military. Covert operations such as the one that rescued two aid workers in Somalia are part of that strategy.

By Staff writer / January 26, 2012

This combination photo made from undated images provided by the Danish Refugee Council shows Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, left, and American Jessica Buchanan. U.S. military forces flew into Somalia in a nighttime raid Wednesday, Jan. 25, and freed the two hostages while killing nine pirates, officials and a pirate source said.

Danish Refugee Council/AP


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Less than a year after a daring raid killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, another raid involving the same elite US Navy SEAL unit freed two aid workers being held hostage in Somalia by pirates in the type of covert, narrowly-targeted operation that is becoming more common for the US.

The SEALs, with other members of the US military, parachuted into Somalia about two miles from where the hostages were being held, walked to the location, and freed the hostages. They were picked up by helicopters, which brought them to the nearby town of Galkayo, where they flew out on a military plane, The New York Times reports. According to the Pentagon, no prisoners were taken, but nine Somali gunmen were killed. The Associated Press reports that all the captors were killed.

American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted were kidnapped on Oct. 25, en route to the airport in Galkayo while working for the Danish Relief Council.

The rescue operation is representative of the Obama administration's vision for a "smaller, more agile" military that relies heavily on targeted counterterrorist strikes against enemies, rather than large-scale, costly land invasions, the Associated Press reports. The administration is expected to announce today an increase in investment in special operations force and clandestine operations, which have become critical tools since 9-11.

That’s a strategy much preferred to the land invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that have cost so much American blood and treasure over the past decade. The contrast to a full-bore invasion is stark: A small, daring team storms a pirate encampment on a near-moonless night, kills nine kidnappers and whisks the hostages to safety.


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