[dehai-news] (Middle East Times) Bush Doctrine's Defeat in Somalia

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Tue Dec 09 2008 - 10:35:52 EST

Bush Doctrine's Defeat in Somalia
Published: December 09, 2008

POWER BROKERS -- The CIA sought to overthrow the Islamists by means of
Ethiopian forces, and of the transitional government of Abdullahi Yusuf
(shown in this 2007 photo), a pro-Western and pro-Ethiopian phantom
administration. (Maxphoto via Newscom)PARIS -- The announcement from Addis
Ababa that Ethiopian troops are withdrawing from Somalia by the end of this
month means that the United States has suffered a defeat in the Horn of
Africa - to add to the long list of U.S. foreign policy failures in the Arab
and Muslim world.

With American backing, small numbers of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in
July 2006, growing into a force of some 30,000 men over the following moths.
Their aim was to drive from power the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) - a
coalition of Islamist insurgents - which had taken control of the Somali
capital, Mogadishu, the previous month.

The Islamists had managed to put to flight corrupt and extortionate warlords
and, after years of anarchy in Somalia, had set about restoring some form of
law and order.

But for U.S. President George W. Bush, Islamic rule in Somalia could not be
allowed to stand. However beneficial it might be for the local population,
it did not square with Bush's global war on terror, launched after the Sept.
11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States. The CIA then sought to
overthrow the Islamists by means of Ethiopian forces, and of Abdullahi
Yusuf's Transitional Government of Somalia (TGS), a pro-Western and
pro-Ethiopian phantom administration, based in Baidao.

Fierce fighting between Ethiopian troops and the Union of Islamic Courts
escalated throughout December 2006, causing some 4,000 dead and wounded. By
the end of the month, Ethiopian troops, backed by U.S. airstrikes, captured
Mogadishu, hours after Islamist fighters fled the city. By Jan. 1 2007, the
southern port of Kismayo - the last UIC stronghold - fell to the Ethiopians,
while the U.S. navy patrolled the Somali coastline to prevent Islamists
escaping by sea.

The Islamists were routed, but they were not beaten. Almost at once, they
started guerrilla operations against Ethiopian troops, trapping them in
ambushes and inflicting casualties on them by means of improvised explosive
devices, the lethal weapon which the United States had come to dread in

As was predictable, the conflict attracted to Somalia a motley group of
Islamist fighters from the Muslim world, intent on waging jihad against
Ethiopia's occupying army and its American backers.

To the alarm of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, his country's
intervention in Somalia also served to breathe fresh life into two insurgent
groups in Ethiopia itself - namely the Oromo Liberation Front, which has
been fighting for autonomy in southern Ethiopia, and the Ogaden National
Liberation Front, largely made up of ethnic Somalis, which demands
self-determination in eastern Ethiopia.

American help for Ethiopian forces - in the form of training, weapons
supply, clandestine missions, air strikes, and the capture and interrogation
of "terrorist" suspects seems to have been of little avail. On the
contrary, it has united rival Somali groups against their common enemies -
Ethiopia and the United States.

After gaining ground in recent months, the Islamist insurgents now control
much of the south of Somalia - including the ports of Kismayo, Merka and
Brava. Casting a noose around Mogadishu itself, they are evidently preparing
for a final push, once the Ethiopians go home.

As the tide of war turned against him, Zenawi clearly had enough. On Nov.
28, he sent a message to the United Nations and to the African Union to say
that Ethiopian troops would leave Somalia before the end of the year.

This brings to a close a disastrous war that has ravaged the country, killed
thousands, displaced over 700,000 from Mogadishu alone, and created a
pitiful humanitarian crisis. It is one more nail in the coffin of the Bush

What next? A "moderate" Islamist leader, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who broke away
from the UIC, has announced that he would welcome an international force to
replace the Ethiopians. His appeal looks like an attempt to promote his own
prospects. As he already has some support in Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen, an
international force - he no doubt believes - could put him in power.

But Ahmed faces stiff competition from another Islamist leader, Sheikh Dahir
Aweys, and indeed from the Shebab, a still more militant Islamist group. The
war caused splits within the Islamic movement, which seem likely to result
in a new struggle for power.

Preoccupied by the rise of maritime piracy off the Somali coast, Western
states are putting together a naval force to combat the pirates. But, after
the Ethiopian experience, no country seems prepared to send ground troops
into the Somali snake pit.


Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of "The Struggle for Syria"; also, "Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East"; and "Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire".

Copyright (c) 2008 Patrick Seale distributed by Agence Global

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