Thursday, December 14, 2006

U.S. Backing Ethiopia Against Somali Islamists

The incipient war between Ethiopia and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in Somalia is receiving the (not exactly neutral) attention of the U.S. military and "Other Government Agencies."

The question now is whether our "terror-fighters" will make matters worse in the Horn of Africa.

Gen. John P. Abizaid of the United States Central Command — or Centcom — which has responsibility for American military interests in the region, recently flew to Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who had told American officials that he could cripple the Islamist forces "in one to two weeks."

Walking a careful line, General Abizaid made it clear that a broad military invasion of Somalia could create a humanitarian crisis across the Horn of Africa, Centcom officials said, but did not tell Ethiopian officials to pull their troops out.

Indeed, some American officials say the United States supports Ethiopia's military buildup because it is the only way to protect the weak Baidoa government from being overrun, force the Islamists to the negotiating table and contain what they call a growing regional threat.

American officials have accused the Islamists of sheltering terrorists connected to Al Qaeda, but the Ethiopian troops' presence seems to have only increased the potential for terrorist activity. Suicide bombers, unknown in Somalia until a few months ago, have attacked Baidoa twice recently, and last month the first Iraqstyle roadside bombs were detonated against Ethiopian convoys.

A U.S.-led attempt to stabilize the country led to the deaths of 18 American troops in an October 1993 battle depicted in the movie "Black Hawk Down." After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government was accused of bungling Somalia policy again by supporting warlords marketing themselves as an "anti-terrorism coalition," who generally terrorized Somalis who came to hate them.


(See The Law Of Unintended Consequences in Somalia for details on how the covert CIA backing of the secular warlords prompted the ICC into launching pre-emptive strikes on -- and the unexpected capture of -- Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.)

Support for the Islamic movement by Eritrea, Ethiopia's neighbor and rival, appears to be a big part of Ethiopia's motivation. The Ethiopia-Eritrea proxy conflict in Somalia could ignite a regional conflagration and threaten U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa, according to a report due out this week from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. It describes "a general unraveling of U.S. foreign policy" in the region and calls for the United States to exert stronger pressure on the two countries to implement a U.S.-brokered border agreement. ...

Some observers, including Ethiopians opposed to war, are convinced that the United States is tacitly giving a green light to Ethiopia to attack. That, they say, would amount to the worst U.S. policy blunder yet in Somalia. Beyene Petros, an opposition leader in Ethiopia's parliament, questioned the wisdom of a visit that Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, paid Meles in Ethiopia last week.

"If there is disapproval, you don't pay visits, right?" he said. "We used to see this call for restraint, but I have not seen that lately."

2 Comments:

Anonymous M1 said...

Seem to recall reading that certain petrointerests in the Baker/Bush sphere of buddies has sweet oil deals with the islamist regime in Sudan, thus the delay in tackling those particular islamists with forces that match the run of the mill rhetoric. Whatever. This post is evidently about Somalia. Oh well, it all smells Africa to me.

12/15/2006 2:11 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

The Sudan Bidness sounds completely plausible. In fact, one of the many complaints about Jim Baker's Iraq Study Group report is that the Texas wheeler-dealer has let his oil interests in the Arab world influence his judgements about how we should proceed in Iraq.

I don't see why it would be any different when dealing with Sudan.

12/15/2006 9:34 AM  

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