Unified Task Force

Unified Task Force
War in Somalia
Part of the Somali Civil War
Baidoa 1992 Somalia.jpg
A U.S. Air Force representative with a group of orphans in Baidoa
Date 9 December 1992 – 4 May 1993
Location Somalia
Result Multinational success (see Results)
 United Nations
Somalia Various Somali factions
Commanders and leaders
United Nations Boutros Boutros Ghali
United States George H. W. Bush
United States Bill Clinton
United States Robert B. Johnston (UNITAF)
Somalia Mohamed Farrah Aidid
see Composition of UNITAF unknown
Casualties and losses
43 killed
153 wounded[1]
1 killed
3 wounded[2]
1 killed
1 killed
Not known

Unified Task Force (UNITAF) was a United States-led, United Nations-sanctioned multinational force which operated in Somalia between 5 December 1992 – 4 May 1993. A United States initiative (code-named Operation Restore Hope), UNITAF was charged with carrying out United Nations Security Council Resolution 794: to create a protected environment for conducting humanitarian operations in the southern half of Somalia.

UNITAF's original mandate was to use "all necessary means" to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian aid in accordance to Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter,[3] and is regarded as a success.[4]



Faced with a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, exacerbated by a complete breakdown in civil order, the United Nations had created the UNOSOM I mission in April 1992. However, the complete intransigence of the local warlords operating in Somalia and their rivalries with each other meant that UNOSOM I could not be performed. The mission never reached its mandated strength.[5]

Over the final quarter of 1992, the situation in Somalia continued to worsen. Factions were splintering into smaller factions, and then splintered again. Agreements for food distribution with one party were worthless when the stores had to be shipped through the territory of another. Some elements were actively opposing the UNOSOM intervention. Troops were shot at, aid ships attacked and prevented from docking, cargo aircraft were fired upon and aid agencies, public and private, were subject to threats, looting and extortion.[5] Meanwhile, hundreds, if not thousands of poverty-stricken refugees were starving to death every day.

By November, General Mohamed Farrah Aidid had grown confident enough to defy the Security Council formally and demand the withdrawal of peacekeepers, as well as declaring hostile intent against any further UN deployments.[6]

In the face of mounting public pressure and frustration, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali presented several options to the Security Council. Diplomatic avenues having proved largely fruitless, he recommended that a significant show of force was required to bring the armed groups to heel. Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations allows for "action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security." Boutros-Ghali believed the time had come for employing this clause and moving on from peacekeeping.[7] Significantly, this invocation of Chapter VII waived the need for consent on the part of the state of Somalia; effectively the first time the UN Secretariat had endorsed such an act.

However, Boutros-Ghali felt that such action would be difficult to apply under the mandate for UNOSOM. Moreover, he realised that solving Somalia’s problems would require such a large deployment that the UN Secretariat did not have the skills to command and control it. Accordingly, he recommended that a large intervention force be constituted under the command of member states but authorised by the Security Council to carry out operations in Somalia. The goal of this deployment was “to prepare the way for a return to peacekeeping and post-conflict peace-building”.[5]

Following this recommendation, on 3 December 1992 the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 794, authorizing the use of "all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia". The Security Council urged the Secretary-General and member states to make arrangements for "the unified command and control" of the military forces that would be involved.[8]

U.S. involvement

US President George H. W. Bush (left) visiting Somalia to witness first hand the efforts of Task Force Somalia that was in direct support of Operation Restore Hope.

Prior to Resolution 794, the United States had approached the UN and offered a significant troop contribution to Somalia, with the caveat that these personnel would not be commanded by the UN. Resolution 794 did not specifically identify the U.S. as being responsible for the future task force, but mentioned "the offer by a Member State described in the Secretary-General's letter to the Council of 29 November 1992 (S/24868) concerning the establishment of an operation to create such a secure environment".[9] Resolution 794 was unanimously adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 3 December 1992, and they welcomed the United States offer to help create a secure environment for humanitarian efforts in Somalia.[10] President George H. W. Bush responded to this by initiating Operation Restore Hope on 4 December 1992, under which the United States would assume command in accordance with Resolution 794.[11] CIA Paramilitary Officer Larry Freedman from their Special Activities Division was the first casualty of the conflict in Somalia. He had been inserted prior to the US invasion on a special reconnaissance mission. Freedman was a former Army Delta Force operator and Special Forces soldier and had served in every conflict that America was involved in both officially and unofficially since Vietnam. Freedman was awarded the Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism.[12]

The first elements of UNITAF landed on the beaches of Somalia on 9 December 1992 amid a media circus.

Composition of UNITAF

The vast bulk of UNITAF's total personnel strength was provided by the United States (Some 25,000 out of a total of 37,000 personnel). Other countries that contributed to UNITAF were Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.[3]

The national contingents were co-ordinated and overseen by U.S. Central Command, however, the relationship between CentCom and the contributing nations varied. There were a few diplomatic and command confrontations over the methods and mandates employed by some contingents. For example, the Italian contingent was accused of bribing local militias to maintain peace, whilst the French Foreign Legion troops were accused of over-vigorous use of force in disarming militiamen.[13]


Indian Army T-72 tanks with UN markings in support of Operation CONTINUE HOPE

The operation began on December 6, 1992, when U.S. Navy SEALs and Special Boat crewmen from Naval Special Warfare Task Unit (NSWTU) TRIPOLI began conducting reconnaissance operations in the vicinity of the airport and harbor. These operations lasted three days. In the early hours of 8 December 1992 elements of the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted leaflet drops over the capital city of Mogadishu. Early on 9 December, the MEU performed an amphibious assault into the city of Mogadishu from USS Tripoli (LPH-10), USS Juneau (LPD-10) and USS Rushmore (LSD-47).

The MEU's ground combat element, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines (2/9), performed simultaneous raids on the Port of Mogadishu and Mogadishu International Airport, establishing a foothold for additional incoming troops. Echo and Golf Company assaulted the airport by helicopter and Amphibious Assault Vehicles, while Fox Company secured the port with an economy of force rubber boat raid. The 1st Marine Division's Air Contingency Battalion (ACB), 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, arrived soon after the airport was secured. Elements of BLT 2/9 and 1/7 went on to secure the airport in Baidoa, the port city of Kismayo, and the city of Bardera. Air support was provided by the combined helicopter units of HMLA-267, HMH-361, HMM-164 and HC-11 DET.10.

Concurrently, various Somali factions returned to the negotiating table in an attempt to end the civil war. This effort was known as the Conference on National Reconciliation in Somalia and it resulted in the Addis Ababa Agreement signed on 27 March 1993.[citation needed] The conference, however had little result as the civil war continued afterwards.


German Army soldiers from Paratrooper Battalion 261 on board an armored personnel carrier (APC) on hand for the dedication of a well, which was part of the relief effort.

As UNITAF's mandate was to protect the delivery of food and other humanitarian aid, the operation was regarded as a success.[14] United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali determined that the presence of UNITAF troops had a "positive impact on the security situation in Somalia and on the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance."[15]

One day prior to the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 814, which marked the transfer of power from UNITAF to UNOSOM II, a United Nations led force. The major change in policy that the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II entailed is that the new mandate included the responsibility of nation-building on the multinational force.[16] On 3 May 1993, UNOSOM II officially assumed command, and on 4 May 1993 it assumed responsibility for the operations.

Operation Continue Hope provided support of UNOSOM II to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations by providing personnel, logistical, communications, intelligence support, a quick reaction force, and other elements as required. Over 60 Army aircraft and approximately 1,000 aviation personnel operated in Somalia from 1992 to 1994.

The transition of UNITAF

UNITAF was only intended as a transitional body. Once a secure environment had been restored, the suspended UNOSOM mission would be revived, albeit in a much more robust form. On 3 March 1993, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council his recommendations for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. He noted that despite the size of the UNITAF mission, a secure environment was not yet established and there was still no effective functioning government or local security/police force.[17]

The Secretary-General concluded therefore, that, should the Security Council determine that the time had come for the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II, the latter should be endowed with enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter to establish a secure environment throughout Somalia.[5] UNOSOM II would therefore seek to complete the task begun by UNITAF for the restoration of peace and stability in Somalia. The new mandate would also empower UNOSOM II to assist the Somali people in rebuilding their economic, political and social life, through achieving national reconciliation so as to recreate a democratic Somali State.

UNOSOM II was established by the Security Council in Resolution 814 on 26 March 1993 and formally took over operations in Somalia when UNITAF was dissolved on 4 May 1993.


  1. ^ http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf
  2. ^ "United Nations Operation in Somalia UNSOM 1992". Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_20244.asp. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  3. ^ a b United Nations Operation In Somalia I – (Unosom I)
  4. ^ "Operation Restore Hope". http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/restore_hope.htm. Retrieved 2008 – 01 – 15. 
  5. ^ a b c d UNITED NATIONS OPERATION IN SOMALIA I, UN Dept of Peacekeeping
  6. ^ United Nations, 1992, Letter dated 92/11/24 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council.
  7. ^ United Nations, 1992, Letter dated 92/11/29 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, page 6.
  8. ^ United Nations, Security Council Council resolution 794 (1992), 24 April 1992, para. 3
  9. ^ Security Council resolutions – 1992
  10. ^ Security Council Resolution 794
  11. ^ Bush, George H., Address to the Nation on the Situation in Somalia, 4/12/92
  12. ^ http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/lnfreedman.htm
  13. ^ Patman, R.G., 2001, ‘Beyond ‘the Mogadishu Line’: Some Australian Lessons for Managing Intra-State Conflicts’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol, 12, No. 1, p. 69
  14. ^ "Operation Restore Hope". http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/restore_hope.htm. Retrieved 2007 – 12 – 02. 
  15. ^ "United Nations Operation in Somalia I". http://www.un.org/Depts/DPKO/Missions/unosomi.htm. Retrieved 2007 – 12 – 02. 
  16. ^ "United Nations Operation in Somalia 2". http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/co_mission/unosom2mandate.html. Retrieved 2007 – 12 – 02. 

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