Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Beware of Ethiopians Bearing Gifts

Via Blake Hounshell comes news that US forces launched another AC-130 air strike in Somalia today. As with the previous effort launched earlier this month, this strike was ostensibly aimed at suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Despite claims made in the aftermath by Somali government spokesmen to the contrary, that earlier attack did not result in the death of any of the al-Qaeda targets.

It is not known whether we hit any of the desired targets this time either. The article also reports on the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu, and eventually all of Somalia, as mentioned on this site yesterday.

There was one additional bit from the article that stood out to me because of its significance in terms of appreciating Ethiopia's motives for invading neighboring Somalia.

Keep in mind that most observers expect Mogadishu - and Somalia generally speaking - to fall prey to anarchy and widespread clan violence when Ethiopian complete their withdrawal, now that the stabilizing ICU government has been toppled. That is, unless those departing Ethiopian troops are replaced by sufficient numbers of international peacekeepers. The deployment of such peacekeeping forces remains dubious at best, and even if they are provided as planned, they are no guarantee against a return to chaos. So the prospects for Somalia going forward are not bright.

If Mogadishu descends into another period of clan warfare, some regional analysts say, that is precisely what Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi Meles wanted all along. As evidence, they point to an Ethiopian government foreign policy report submitted to that country's Parliament two years ago.

According to an English translation, Ethiopian security officials wrote that Somalia was so divided that it "no longer posed a threat" to Ethiopia. [emphasis added]

As I've been suggesting all along, this eventualilty is a feature, not a bug. Although the cited report is not exactly smoking gun evidence of such motives, common sense dictates that longtime, bitter rivals generally don't expend blood and treasure to better the cause of their adversaries. The fact that such concepts appear in official Ethiopian strategy papers should come as no surprise. When the facts on the ground and previous policy match up with common sense, let Occam's razor cut to the chase.

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