By lex, on January 4th, 2007
It’s tempting for us to view the conflict in Somalia between the Islamist Courts Union and the Transitional National Government backed by Ethiopia through our recently acquired understanding of the 21st century Islamist movement, but the conflict in that part of the world between the forces of Northeast African Islam and Ethiopian Christianity has been going on for at least 500 years.
And to be quite frank, I’ve watched the conflict with some ambivalence. It’s hard to be a fan of fundamentalist groups aligned with al Qaeda. And yet, they managed to put the clan militias down and bring peace to the capital, where none had existed since Siad Barre was deposed in 1991 and where periodic famines have often been used as weapons of war. Couldn’t we hope that the ICU would rule benevolently, or if not, could not we at least hope that they might restrain their tendencies towards theologically-inspired, absolutist brutality against their own people?
Well, no: And even Mussolini made the trains run on time. The ICU’s leadership – which had unwisely provided an already uneasy Ethiopia with a cassus belli by threatening cross border warfare – collapsed much more rapidly than I would have anticipated, abandoning one set of battle lines after another, even unto their southern fastness in Kismayo. Pursued for now by Ethiopian air power, they now hide in the rugged border regions above fortified Kenya.
It’s not over of course, there will be ongoing asymmetric resistance and considering Ethiopia’s changing demographics there will probably be a domestic price to pay: Proving that the leopard doesn’t change his spots the fleeing ICU – which had repressed the clan militias while they ruled in Mogadishu -threw open their weapons caches to them, and once predominately Christian Ethiopia has a growing Muslim minority. There will be instability in the Horn of Africa for at least a little while longer.
But instability cuts both ways: **
U.S. Navy vessels have been deployed off the coast of Somalia to make sure al-Qaeda or allied jihadists don’t escape the country by sea now that the once-dominant Islamist forces there are in retreat, the State Department said Wednesday.
Of particular concern is the fate of three al-Qaeda militants who were believed by U.S. officials to be under the protection of the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu until Ethiopian forces drove the Courts Union from power in recent days. The three are believed to have had a role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya.
We’ve been at this so long now, and have spent so much in blood and treasure that it’s possible to forget how this all started and the resolve we first brought into the fight: Tired of taking hits, more tired still of trembling in anticipation of the next blow we decided to change the rules of the game: Put them off balance. Strike fear into their hearts. Drive them into caves. Seal up the entrances.
Flush ‘em out. Flush ‘em down.
** 07-19-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.