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Reports: CIA officer, fmr. SEAL Team 6 member killed in Somalia

U.S. Navy Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) team members. (U.S. Navy/Released)
November 30, 2020

A current C.I.A. officer and former member of SEAL Team 6 was killed in combat in Somalia “in recent days,” The New York Times first reported, citing U.S. officials.

The Intercept reported that the fallen officer is Michael Goodboe, 54, a member of the C.I.A.’s paramilitary division, the Special Activities Center, as well as a former member of the Navy’s SEAL team. Goodboe reportedly died after sustaining injuries from an improvised explosive device, though it’s not yet clear when his death took place.

Details of the attack remain unclear, but one person familiar with the attacks said Goodboe was rushed to a U.S. military hospital in Germany where he died as a result of his injuries.

The Shabab, an Al Qaeda-connected terror group in Somalia, is a large part of the deadly threat in the region. Last week, the group took responsibility for killing a number of American-trained Somali soldiers. According to a military official, no Americans were killed in the attack.

The Shabab’s ambitions have other counterterrorism experts concerned that they could become a comparable threat to the United States as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been. Members of the Shabab were detained while learning to fly in the Philippines, while other members have tried to obtain surface-to-air missiles.

Somalia has been considered an especially dangerous war zone and senior intelligence officials have questioned whether counterterrorism efforts in the area are worth the risk.

While C.I.A. officers are rarely killed in combat, paramilitary work includes the riskiest missions at the agency, NYT said.  The officer’s death brings the total of fallen C.I.A. officers over the last 20 years to 135.

The officer’s death comes amid President Trump’s calls to withdraw all of more than 700 American troops in Somalia. The forces conducting training and counterterrorism missions would reportedly leave by Inauguration Day in January.

Last week, acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller announced the Trump administration’s plans to draw down the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to just 2,500 by January. The details surrounding reducing troops in Somalia are still being discussed.

The Lead Inspector General Report said that security inside Somalia was struggling despite American drone strikes and U.S.-supported raids against Shabab militants.

“Despite many years of sustained Somali, U.S. and international counterterrorism pressure, the terrorist threat in East Africa is not degraded,” the report concluded. “Shabab retains freedom of movement in many parts of southern Somalia and has demonstrated an ability and intent to attack outside of the country, including targeting U.S. interests.”

The C.I.A.’s paramilitary division has taken the biggest hit of the agency’s fatalities since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. At least 20 officers have died in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war.