David Axe

David Axe is freelance war correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan,Lebanon, East Timor and Somalia. His books include War Fix and Army 101. His personal blog is called War is Boring. He can be reached at [email protected].


October 29, 2010

Axe in Congo: Giving It Away

by DAVID AXE U.S. Army and Congolese army doctors render free medical care at a clinic in Kinshasa, as part of the Medflag ’10 exercise.


October 28, 2010

Axe in Congo: Litter Training

by DAVID AXE Kinshasa — Corrupt and impoverished, Congo doesn’t have much in the way of emergency services. Wrecked cars become semi-permanent urban art installations on the side of the road. When fires break out, it can take hours for anyone to respond. MONUSCO, the U.N. peacekeeping force, has been forced to put out some […]


October 27, 2010

Axe in Congo: Can’t Please Everyone

by DAVID AXE Kinshasa — A free health clinic was one of the culminating events of the U.S. Army-led "Medflag ’10" training exercise in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While American instructors trained up Congolese medics, U.S. and Congolese officials oversaw registration of civilians to attend the clinic. The civilians lined up before a board […]


October 26, 2010

Axe in Congo: Training the Congolese Army

by DAVID AXE Kinshasa — Soft power can be tedious, exhausting, frustrating. A hundred U.S. Army doctors and medics are in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to train several hundred medics from the Congolese Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo. The Americans’ idea: to leave the Congolese more capable and more professional than […]


October 25, 2010

Axe in Congo: The Army’s Training Dilemma

by DAVID AXE Kinshasa — Colonel Gilbert Kabanda, the surgeon general of the Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo — the Congolese army — is a tiny man, barely more than five feet tall. But he has a big speaking voice. On September 6, he took the stage at the opening ceremony for […]


May 18, 2010

Somali Officials Resign as Fighting Escalates

by DAVID AXE Sheikh Adan Madobe, speaker of the U.S.-and U.N.-backed Somali parliament, resigned today after his support in the weak governing body collapsed. Prime minister Abdirashid has also resigned after seeing his own influence wane amid continuing violence in the East African country. "The president is going to appoint a new prime minster and […]


May 12, 2010

Somali Islamists = Environmentalists?

Guardian photo. by DAVID AXE Just two weeks ago Somali Islamic group Al Shabab advanced on a Harardere, a pirate stronghold in central Somalia. "The pirates began retreating with the hijacked vessels and crew to Hobyo, another pirate stronghold about 108 kilometers to the north," Voice of America reported. This after years of inaction by […]


April 22, 2010

World Politics Review: Disputes Threaten Chad-Sudan Peace Deal

Crashed Chadian helicopter. David Axe photo. by DAVID AXE On April 16, a Chadian helicopter with at least three people aboard crashed in Adre, a town abutting the border with Sudan in the desert region shared by the two countries. One person died in the crash, while two were injured. The incident was an unwelcome […]


February 25, 2010

Foreign Fishermen Still Plundering Somali Waters

Kenyan fisherman. Photo by David Axe. by DAVID AXE When the Somali government collapsed in 1991, so too did Somalia’s ability to police its waters and regulate foreign vessels. For corporate fishing fleets from Asia and Europe, that meant rich shark and tuna fisheries suddenly wide open for exploitation. And boy did they exploit. Tales […]


February 17, 2010

Al Shabab Rallies Troops for Mogadishu Defense

Al Shabab. AP photo. by DAVID AXE On Friday Sheikh Moqtar Robow Abumansor, a top military leader in Somali Islamic group Al Shabab, declared war against the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu. This at a time when the TFG and peacekeepers are clearly planning for a […]


February 12, 2010

World Politics Review: Somali Forces Prepare Counter-Islamist Offensive

  AMISOM peacekeepers. U.S. Army photo. by DAVID AXE Forces belonging to the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia have mobilized for a major offensive against Islamic militants who control much of southern and central Somalia. On Friday, a local journalist who spoke with World Politics Review reported seeing government forces, as […]


January 25, 2010

Somali Insurgents Claim Yemen Boost

A.U. tanks in Somalia. Photo via Somali Weyn. by DAVID AXE A spokesman for the Somali Islamic group Al Shabab told reporters his forces have been bolstered by fighters from Yemen. “We have received fighters from the Arabian Peninsula — I mean in Yemen — to bolster our fighters on the ground,” Sheikh Ali Mohamoud […]


October 3, 2009

The 9,000-Ton Littoral Warship

A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.” by DAVID AXE The Navy’s shipbuilding strategy hinges on buying at […]


October 2, 2009

The Near-Shore Strategy

A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.” by DAVID AXE A year into the “global war on piracy,” […]


September 29, 2009

Behind the Piracy Decline

A year after Somali piracy peaked with more than 100 ships attacked, the world’s navies have assembled dozens of warships to combat the threat. David Axe joins the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook in Djibouti, to observe firsthand this “global war on piracy.” by DAVID AXE In three months there’s been just one successful […]


September 20, 2009

The Baddest, Holiest Gang, Part Three

How young Somali immigrants searched for belonging, and found jihad. Last of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. by DAVID AXE and JOHN MASATO ULMER Somali-American terror recruits have common roots in an impoverished, neglected and sometime oppressed immigrant community. Their feelings of impotence and isolation […]


September 17, 2009

The Baddest, Holiest Gang, Part Two

How young Somali immigrants to the U.S. searched for belonging, and found jihad. Second of a three-part series. by DAVID AXE and JOHN MASATO ULMER When 26-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, a Somali-born immigrant living in Minnesota, blew himself up in Puntland, Somalia, on Oct. 29 last year, he became the very first American suicide bomber, and […]


September 16, 2009

The Baddest, Holiest Gang

How young Somali immigrants to the U.S. searched for belonging, and found jihad. First of a three-part series. by DAVID AXE and JOHN MASATO ULMER On Oct. 29 last year, Shirwa Ahmed drove a car full of explosives up to a government compound in Puntland, a region of northern Somalia, and blew himself up. The […]


September 13, 2009

Better Naval Coordination Suppresses Pirate Attacks

by DAVID AXE After a year of rapid growth, the international naval force assembled to combat Somali piracy has stabilized at what will probably be its permanent level. There are around 20 vessels and a handful of land-based aircraft from some dozen navies, organized into three major flotillas plus independent patrols. The U.S.-led Task Force […]


August 30, 2009

After 40 Years of Dictatorship, Gabon Votes

Gabon is headed to the polls for the West African country’s first real election since the rise of Omar Bongo as president some four decades ago. Bongo died in June, as one of the world’s longest-serving heads of state, and now will be replaced. Gabon, a major oil producer and one of the wealthiest and […]


August 5, 2009

No End in Sight to South Sudan’s Violence over Land

By DAVID AXE Tribal fighting in South Sudan killed nearly 200 people on Sunday. Murle tribesmen reportedly attacked an encampment of refugees from the Lou Nuer tribe, killing 185, mostly women and children, but also including soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the U.S.-backed armed force of the breakaway Government of South Sudan. The […]


August 3, 2009

Somaliland Hires Freelance Diplomats

by DAVID AXE Somaliland, population 1 million, is a fully autonomous — but unrecognized, internationally — region of the Republic of Somalia, with its own laws, courts, currency and army. It’s also one of the handful of “unofficial” countries in the world that has few full-time diplomats, and so hires freelancers to sit at the […]


July 28, 2009

U.S. Trains South Sudan Air Experts?

by DAVID AXE The U.S. Air Force Special Operations School in Hurlburt, Florida, last week launched its inaugural "Building Partner Aviation Capacity Course." The training course in basic aviation planning "included representatives from the U.S., Costa Rica and Sudan," the Air Force reported. Costa Rica, sure. But Sudan? Since Washington does not have formal military […]


July 14, 2009

Two More Foreigners Abducted in Somalia?

In August, two foreign freelance reporters were abducted by gunmen in Mogadishu. The kidnappings of Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindhout from the Shamo Hotel marked an up-tick in violence against foreigners, and especially reporters, in a country that was already one of the most dangerous in the world for visitors. Of course, it’s no cake-walk […]


July 1, 2009

Death-Threat E-mail from an Islamic Extremist

by DAVID AXE Ever wondered what an Islamic extremist’s death threat to an "infidel" might look like? Now you can know. Two weeks ago, Somali journalist Ahmed Omar Hashi, aka Ahmed "Tajir," pictured, survived an assassination attempt, by extremists, that killed his colleague Moqtar Hirabe. Readers donated funds to help Hashi escape to another country. […]


June 25, 2009

Somali Journo, Assassination Survivor, Flees Country

by DAVID AXE Two weeks ago, unidentified gunmen targeted Somali radio reporter Ahmed Omar Hashi, aka Ahmed "Tajir," as he was walking in Mogadishu’s Bakara Market with Moqtar Hirabe, his director. Hirabe died, on the spot; Hashi’s friends rushed him to Medina Hospital, pictured, with wounds to his arm and stomach. The attack was the […]


June 9, 2009

Help Rescue a Somali Reporter, Targeted for Assassination

On Sunday gunmen shot and killed Muktar Hirabe, director of Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu, making him the fifth Somali reporter to die this year, in a country where being a journalist is one of the most dangerous jobs there is. With Hirabe was Ahmed Omar Hashi (at right in the photo), a Shabelle senior producer […]


May 19, 2009

Africa Handshake, Part Ten: Smart Power’s Long History

With two expensive land wars draining the treasury, the Pentagon wants to prevent future conflicts without spending a lot of money. Two years ago the Navy launched its first, roughly annual Africa Partnership Station, sending ships on solo cruises up the West African coast to deliver training and humanitarian aid. The idea: to win new […]


May 15, 2009

Africa Handshake, Part Nine: Skeptics

With two expensive land wars draining the treasury, the Pentagon wants to prevent future conflicts without spending a lot of money. Two years ago the Navy launched its first, roughly annual Africa Partnership Station, sending ships on solo cruises up the West African coast to deliver training and humanitarian aid. The idea: to win new […]


May 11, 2009

Africa Handshake, Part Eight: Size Matters

With two expensive land wars draining the treasury, the Pentagon wants to prevent future conflicts without spending a lot of money. Two years ago the Navy launched its first, roughly annual Africa Partnership Station, sending ships on solo cruises up the West African coast to deliver training and humanitarian aid. The idea: to win new […]