From: Tsegai Emmanuel (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Dec 03 2008 - 22:28:52 EST
Ethiopia, Somalia: A Troop Withdrawal and an Elusive Power-Sharing
Today » <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis> December 2, 2008 | 1901 GMT
[image: Ethiopian Soldiers Man A Position in Mogadishu in June 2008]
Ethiopian troops man a position in Mogadishu, Somalia, in June
Ethiopia announced Nov. 28 that it plans to remove its troops from Somalia
by year's end. The following day, Somalian Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif
Ahmed said he would welcome an international force to replace exiting
Ethiopian troops. Ahmed appears to be jockeying for a leadership position by
adopting a moderate stance just as Ethiopia probably is seeking an Islamist
leader to form an internationally backed Somalian power-sharing arrangement.
Ideally, such a deal would leave Somalia stable enough for Ethiopian forces
to withdraw without sacrificing Ethiopian security — but unfortunately for
Ethiopia, any such deal is unlikely to last long.
Ethiopia will withdraw its forces from Somalia at the end of 2008, an
Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Nov. 28. Ethiopia has maintained
between 30,000 to 40,000 troops in Somalia since invading Somalia and
deposing the Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC) government in summer
2006. Ethiopia kept forces in Somalia to back up the transitional federal
government (TFA) of President Abdullahi Yusuf, which is too weak to maintain
security in Somalia on its own.
With only a very weak African Union peacekeeping force and the odd American
airstrike against high-value al Qaeda-linked targets to back it up, Ethiopia
has complained frequently of having to shoulder most of the burden of
defending against the Somalian Islamists. Maintaining its troops has been
expensive, and has left Ethiopian forces at home spread thinly at a time
when Addis Ababa faces other threats from actors like Eritrea and various
domestic rebel groups.
Somalia long exploited its strategic location on the Horn of Africa, which
straddles key shipping routes via the Suez Canal to the north and the Indian
Ocean, to exploit both sides during the Cold War. Longtime Somalian
President Muhammad Siad Barre thus acquired a vast arsenal, which he used to
control Somalia's extremely fractured clan-based society. The end of the
Cold War also brought an end to Barre's ability to control the disparate
clans, sending him into exile and launching the country into a civil war.
International intervention into the conflict only increased the
conflagration, as warring sides fought over U.N. contracts and food
distribution. Ultimately, the international community decided to leave
Somalia to its own chaotic civil war following the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu,
in which 19 American soldiers died.
Somalia caught the world's attention again in 2006, when the Islamist SICC
took over the government and fears of radical Islam carried through the
region. In the summer of 2006 (six months after the Islamists took over),
Ethiopia invaded Somalia based on suspicions that the SICC had designs on
ethnic Somalian territory in
Addis Ababa thus deployed troops into Somalia to deny the SICC the ability
to support Ethiopian insurgents.
These insurgents include the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a group of
ethnic Somalis in eastern Ethiopia fighting for self-determination. Addis
Ababa also faces the Oromo Liberation Front, which is fighting for greater
autonomy in southern Ethiopia. To head off the threat that the Somalian
Islamists would aid Ethiopian insurgents, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi elected to prevent the SICC from defeating Ethiopia's secular proxy
government in Somalia<http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/somalia_peace_deals_likely_harvest>.
Ethiopia fears that withdrawing its troops from Somalia would lead to a
return to the pre-2006 invasion status of Somali and all the security
hazards that entails.
But Ethiopia was presented with a new opportunity to withdraw from Somalia
without leaving chaos behind Nov. 29, when Sheikh Sharif Ahmed announced
that he supported the presence of international forces to stabilize Somalia,
and offered his help to any who would come. Ahmed is a key Islamist leader
who belonged to SICC. Since SICC was expelled and split into various
he has emerged as a moderate Islamist leader with a significant following in
Islamist southern Somalia and Mogadishu. His current announcement, which
puts him squarely in the moderate camp, sounds quite different from his
stated opposition to foreign forces a year
Yusuf, whose government only controls the northern region of Puntland, is
engaged in negotiations with Ahmed to form a new Somalian government. Such a
government would bridge ideological as well as geographical gaps in the
TFA's power base.
Ahmed also enjoys backing from other countries in the Horn of Africa region
gained during his time in exile, when he cycled through Kenya, Yemen,
Eritrea and Djibouti. If Ethiopia could be convinced that Ahmed should share
power in a moderate Somalian government, it would thus enjoy backing from
all of the countries in the Horn of Africa — and perhaps even convincing
Somalia's neighbors to provide security forces to replace the ones Ethiopia
is withdrawing. But even Ahmed's cooperation and regional support will not
suffice to create a politically stable situation in Somalia.
[image: Map: Horn of Africa]
First, Ahmed does not control the entire Islamist movement. Other leaders
like Sheikh Dahir
militant groups at the far end of the radical spectrum like al
Shabaab <http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/somalia_al_qaeda_and_al_shabab> —
which continues to wage a guerrilla campaign in southern and central Somalia
— will pose the main threat to Ahmed's leadership of Islamists in the south
and in Mogadishu. Negotiations with Ahmed alone would thus not lock up
Islamist cooperation, meaning that any power-sharing agreements would most
likely get bogged down in Somalia's domestic power struggles.
Second, international support beyond the region for promoting Somalian
stability is severely lacking. The United States is preoccupied with
commitments elsewhere and is in the midst of a political transition, and
seems to be content with periodic
key positions to keep the radical Islamist leadership off balance.
Moreover, Washington might prove reluctant to back an Islamist who formerly
belonged to the SICC. And even regional actors like
considerable domestic issues to deal with, keeping them from offering
assistance for resolving Somalia's problems. The international reluctance to
get involved in Somalia comes despite the threat of piracy originating in
This threat has intensified over the past year, attracting a great deal of
attention and prompting the United Nations to call for a foreign naval
presence to patrol the waters off Somalia. But no country participating in
this naval force has been willing to send troops onto land. And a lack of
troops on the ground to ensure the survival of a power-sharing deal
decreases the likelihood that such a deal would last long.
These two drawbacks essentially ensure that any deal reached between
Ethiopia, Yusuf and Ahmed (or other Islamist leaders) will not last long.
Somalia has been and will continue to be a politically fractured and lawless
state that cannot be cured by bilateral power-sharing agreements. Without a
foreign force backing up the government, Somalia cannot maintain a
government agreeable to its neighbors. Even the SICC, the once-cohesive
Islamist government, has broken into squabbling factions. As Ethiopian
troops prepare to withdraw, nothing is set to take its place that would keep
Somalia from returning to chaos
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