Africa

Ethiopia's Quagmire

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The U.S.-backed occupation runs into trouble:

Nearly two years after being driven from Mogadishu, Islamists have re-taken swathes of south Somalia and may have their sights again on the capital.

The insurgents' push is being led by Al Shabaab, or "Youth" in Arabic, the most militant in a wide array of groups opposed to the Somali government and military backers from Ethiopia, an ally in Washington's "War on Terror"….

Analysts say Islamists or Islamist-allied groups now control most of south Somalia, with the exception of Mogadishu, Baidoa where parliament is protected by Ethiopian troops, and Baladwayne near the border where Addis Ababa garrisons soldiers.

That is a remarkable turnaround from the end of 2006, when allied Somali-Ethiopian troops chased the Islamists out of Mogadishu after a six-month rule of south Somalia, scattering them to sea, remote hills and the Kenyan border.

The Islamists regrouped to begin an insurgency that has killed nearly 10,000 civilians. Military discipline, grassroots political work, youth recruitment and an anti-Ethiopian rallying cry have underpinned their return, analysts say.

[Hat tip: Dan Clore.]

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  1. Interesting how you put this up without comment Jesse. Do you think this is a good thing? Are you happy that lunatic radicals are taking over another part of the world?

  2. I don’t see this news as a commentary on American foreign policy so much as I see that sub-Saharan Africa is developing new ways of self-immolation. The end result is the same, only the means change.

  3. Alllllllright.

  4. How does this square with the claim that its the American presence in Iraq that is responsible for the Islamist insurgency there? As far as I know, there is no meaningful American presence in Somalia.

    What is the extent of our “backing” for the Ethiopian “occupation” of Somalia? Purely verbal? Financial? What?

  5. RC,

    Americans are an occupying foreign army in Iraq. Ethiopians are an occupying foreign army in Somalia. In Red Dawn, Russians were an occupying foreign army in America.

    Are you under the impression that the widespread observation that the military occupation of other countries breeds resemtment is somehow limited to Americans?

  6. WOLVERINES

  7. Pfft. Michigan sux.

  8. The meaningful American presence in Somalia may be oil.When we intervened there in 92′, Chevron, Amoco, Conoco, and Phillips had exclusive concessions covering two thirds of Somalia. Conoco’s corporate compound in Mogadishu was made into a defacto U.S. embassy a few days before the marines landed in the capital.

    (this is from an L.A. Times piece from back then)

  9. Roll Tide!

    (michigan sure didn’t sux on saturday)

  10. I am an Ethiopian. First and for most Ethiopins never approve of the somali invasion, and second the pupet gevonment of Ethiopia invaded somalia at the order of the american government, who is providing both finacial and miltary assistance the ethiopian dictator. In short the occopation of somalia is a proxy war of The american govt against the so called Islamist Terrorists.

  11. RC Dean,

    Huh?
    The Ethiopian army went in to oust an existing Islamist movement that dates back more than a decade. Somalia is, at least in part, a fight between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea has been funding the Islamists…Ethiopia wants stable access to the water.

    American’s got involved and didn’t make any friends, but not all fights have something to do with us.

  12. All fights lately seem to have something to do with my wallet around tax-time…

  13. Naod,

    That is interesting.
    I was under the impression that it was the Ethiopian government that was using the American war on terror as cover to do what it has wanted to do for a long time. By saying “we are fighting your Islamist enemies” they were able to get some funds and some political cover in a bid to establish a friendly government in the country that stands between Ethiopia and the water. Is that not accurate?

    Can you elaborate on the US relationship with the Ethiopian government to help us get a better picture?

  14. The religion of peace.

    Are you happy that lunatic radicals are taking over another part of the world?

    Matt Welch probably is.

  15. As far as I know, there is no meaningful American presence in Somalia.

    The U.S. has launched a few airstrikes over the past year or two tied in with the situation there. Also, the USS Howard is one of the ships currently surrounding the hijacked MV Faina. And, there is a U.S. military base in neighboring Djibouti (apparently the only one in sub-Saharan Africa).

  16. brotherben,

    Alabama is probably the best team in the nation right now. The Gators apparently still have defensive trouble, grumble.

  17. Pro Lib, I don’t know if I’d go that far, Georgia shot themselves in the foot a whole bunch and that resulted in a lot of Bama points. But we do love us some Nick Saban down here 😉

  18. The USA could disappear tomorrow and muslims will still be fighting the: Buddhists in Thailand, Hindus in India/Kashmir, Jews in Middle East, each other in M. East, Christians and animists all over Africa, Coptics in Egypt, Christians and each other in Lebanon, …

    In each conflict, it is the muslims who refuse to accept the “other”.

  19. John, this is Hit & Run. They still don’t require ritual denunciation of the Evil Enemy in this blog.

  20. Since both Ken Menkhaus and Enough’s John Prendergast are quoted in the story, I might as well plug Dr. Menkhaus’s recent report for Enough.

  21. Islam will eventually destroy the earth. I think we all know that is the likely outcome of the advance of Islam combined with the advance of nuclear technology.

  22. Islam will eventually destroy the earth

    Wait, I thought that was the Hadron Collider.

  23. Wait, I thought that was the Hadron Collider.

    Once Islam gets a hold of it.

  24. I don’t know if I’d go that far, Georgia shot themselves in the foot a whole bunch and that resulted in a lot of Bama points.

    This could easily apply to the presidential campaign as well. Go figure.

    Are you under the impression that the widespread observation that the military occupation of other countries breeds resemtment is somehow limited to Americans?

    Not at all. I was just inquiring about the common if often unstated assumption that the American presence in a country brings out the worst in people in a way that the presence of other countries does not.

    I mean, whaddaya know, it sounds like a UN “occupation” of Iraq would have sparked exactly the same insurgency as an American one.

    Just sayin’.

  25. My problem with this and especially the Enough article linked above is that it goes overboard to assert “US policy is the sux0r” (with a slight undercurrent of “US is the sux0r”) because it assumes if p then q equals if not p then not q.

    where p is ‘us supports something’

    and q is ‘shit happens’

    Everyone is eager to blame the US for the current situation in Somalia – because of some specific but mostly ‘moral’ support of Ethiopia. But Somalia (like Haiti) has been a clusterfuck and a tragedy for the entire lives of everyone posting here, and well before that as well.

  26. I was just inquiring about the common if often unstated assumption that the American presence in a country brings out the worst in people in a way that the presence of other countries does not.

    If you’re going to keep that much straw sitting around, I hope you have a fire extinguisher.

  27. I mean, whaddaya know, it sounds like a UN “occupation” of Iraq would have sparked exactly the same insurgency as an American one.

    Nah. A different dynamic would have altered the outcome in some important ways I am sure. The UN, for instance, may have had the wisdom not to dissolve the army and go so aggressively for “De-Bathification.” The resulting opposition to the occupation would have looked a lot different.

  28. Thanks for the hat tip, but you could always link to my mailing-list, Smygo, that I posted this story on:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo/

  29. I think Kolohe and I are saying the same thing, joe. You got a problem with how he puts it?

  30. It is important to note that the U.S. Navy was flying close air support missions in support of the Ethiopian invasion. This was as much a U.S. operation as the toppling of the Taliban by the Northern Alliance was in Afghanistan in 2001-2002.

    The invasion was done at the behest of the U.S. government; the rise of the Islamic Councils was deemed a threat to the U.S. The fact that the Islamic Councils had popular support made this a boneheaded move. The councils get their popularity from the fact that they were providing the best system of conflict resolution/law enforcement in the region and were superior to the despotic warlords they replaced.

    Incidentally, since the collapse of the former Marxist government, the U.S. and other powers have been trying to create a new governemnt to take over the territory. They have been using the UN as the vehicle to accomplish this. It has proved a failure; most Somalis ignored them until they arrived on the heels of the Ethiopian army. They have no base of popular support. For all intents and purposes, they are a collonial government imposed by outsiders.

  31. tarran,

    Interesting. But I still question the “at the behest of the US” angle on this. Ethiopia has their own interests here and they are certainly not unwilling to use their military to advance their interests.

  32. In related news, Somali pirates just seized a Ukrainian ship full of tanks and other heavy weapons.

  33. The Russians are sending a warship to the area to liberate the Ukranian ship. As they say in the television biz, hilarity ensues!

  34. Somalia: pretty good argument for a free market, horrible argument for anarchism.

  35. jtuf,

    Shit.
    On Friday, Kenyan and Western officials said that an American warship was steaming toward the hijacked ship to intercept it, and the Russian Navy announced that it, too, was sending a warship, the Dauntless. This could lead to a showdown with the pirates in the middle of the Indian Ocean. With nearly two dozen hostages aboard a floating ammunition depot, things could get complicated.

    via NY Times

    more
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/26/africa/27pirates.php

  36. Somalia: pretty good argument for a free market, horrible argument for anarchism.

    It ranks both at the top of this year’s “Failed States Index” and at the bottom of this year’s “Corruption Perceptions Index”.

    Separately, I might as well plug the Somalia sections on Reuters Africa, allAfrica, and ReliefWeb.

  37. It ranks both at the top of this year’s “Failed States Index” and at the bottom of this year’s “Corruption Perceptions Index”.

    I can’t help but wonder, though, what would have happened if everyone would’ve just left it alone. Not that anyone could really do that and get away with it politically. I just wonder if a state would have crystallized, if it would have remained an ultra violent quagmire, or if it would have gradually grown into the anarcho-capitalist wet dream that some libertarians fantasize about.

    I’m sure someone’s written about it somewhere.

  38. jacques | September 29, 2008, 11:12am | #

    The USA could disappear tomorrow and muslims will still be fighting the: Buddhists in Thailand, Hindus in India/Kashmir, Jews in Middle East, each other in M. East, Christians and animists all over Africa, Coptics in Egypt, Christians and each other in Lebanon, …

    In each conflict, it is the muslims who refuse to accept the “other

    Ron White: “I was doing a show at a military base with 50,000 soldiers, and I mentioned that fact. And a drunk woman yelled out ‘And everyone of them is a lousy fuck!’. I wondered out loud, did you ever think “well, maybe it’s me’??

    After 49,995, you have to wonder: ‘Maybe I’m the common denominator in this calculus of love’.”

  39. Anger over the Ethiopian airstrikes reverberated Monday throughout Mogadishu. Local radio stations flooded the airwaves with nationalist songs, recalling the history of tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia, which last went to war in 1977.Angry youths rioted in several Somali cities, urging all adult males to join the Islamic forces.
    http://www.mirei.com

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