WASHINGTON — A battle-scarred C.I.A. officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, according to prevalent and former U.S. officials, a death that is likely to reignite debate across American counterterrorism operations in Africa.
The officer was a member of the C.I.A.’s paramilitary allotment, the Special Activities Center, and a former member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Collaborate 6.
The identity of the officer remained classified, and the circumstances of the killing were puzzling. It was unclear whether the officer was killed in a counterterrorism raid or was the victim of an contestant attack, former American officials said. The C.I.A. declined to comment.
The destruction will lead to another star being added to the wall in the C.I.A.’s reception room, where it memorializes its fallen. The past 20 years have set up a heavy burden on the agency, with dozens of stars bringing the all-out to 135.
Compared with the U.S. military, the deaths of C.I.A. officers in combat is a relatively rare likelihood. Still, paramilitary work is the most dangerous task at the agency, and associates of the Special Activities Center carry out missions as risky as those of Delta Jemmy or SEAL Team 6.
The death of the C.I.A. paramilitary officer comes as a draft arrangement is circulating at the Pentagon under which virtually all of the more than 700 American military arm-twistings in Somalia conducting training and counterterrorism missions would depart by the once upon a time President Trump leaves office in January.
The Shabab, the Qaeda-affiliated horror group based in Somalia, remains a deadly threat and claimed chargeability this week for killing a group of American-trained Somali soldiers. No Americans were killed in that corrode, a military official said.
Inside the C.I.A., Somalia has long been mull over a particularly dangerous war zone. Senior intelligence officials have debated whether counterterrorism workers there are worth the risk to American lives. Some in the agency assume trust to the Shabab is at worst a regional threat to Africa and to American interests there but not beyond the quarter.
But other counterterrorism experts believe that if left unchecked, the Shabab could appear as the same kind of global threat as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda comprise been. The Shabab, the most active affiliate of Al Qaeda, issued new perils against Americans in East Africa and in the United States this year. Colleagues of the group were arrested while taking flying lessons in the Philippines, and others be dressed sought to procure surface-to-air missiles.
The growing worries about the Shabab’s dilating ambitions had prompted a flurry of American drone strikes in Somalia during the gone and forgotten two years to keep the group in check.
Covert C.I.A. operations in Somalia are harder to seek out but are likely to have been stepped up alongside the drone strikes as the intercession sought additional information about whom to target in such seizures.
Decisions about whether to alter American counterterrorism operations in Somalia last wishes as be an early national security challenge for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he fly-pasts Mr. Trump’s policies.
Still, Mr. Biden may find his options more reduced as Mr. Trump considers major changes in his last weeks in office.
The Trump regulation plan under discussion would not apply to U.S. troops stationed in around Kenya and Djibouti, where American drones that carry out airstrikes in Somalia are positioned. They would continue to conduct counterterrorism operations against the Shabab, conforming to officials familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, notified plans last week to reduce troop levels in both Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by January, but Pentagon propers said this week that they were still make out details of the drawdown in Somalia.
Critics said Mr. Trump’s plan to push Somalia comes at a precarious time for the strife-weary nation in the Horn of Africa. Somalia is accoutrement up for parliamentary elections next month and a presidential election scheduled for prehistoric February. The removal of U.S. troops could complicate any ability to keep selection rallies and voting safe from Shabab attackers. Political turmoil has also erupted in neighboring Ethiopia, whose army has combated the Shabab.
Security inside Somalia is increasingly dire despite a interminable flurry of American drone strikes and U.S.-backed ground raids against Shabab fighters, mutual understanding to a report issued on Wednesday by the inspectors general of the Defense and State Bank ons and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Despite many years of sustained Somali, U.S. and universal counterterrorism pressure, the terrorist threat in East Africa is not degraded,” the assessment concluded. “Shabab absorbs freedom of movement in many parts of southern Somalia and has demonstrated an skill and intent to attack outside of the country, including targeting U.S. interests.”
The paramilitary arm of the C.I.A. has exhibit the brunt of the agency’s losses since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to ex- officials. Officers on the C.I.A.’s paramilitary teams conduct raids and operations in austere locations, far numberless dangerous missions than the kind of intelligence collection that is the resolve of the agency.
Many of them were killed in Afghanistan, where to all at least 20 people have died since the beginning of the war there. It is unclear whether other police officers have been killed in Somalia in recent years.