Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blowing the Horn

As we near the one year anniversary of the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia (with Ethiopia acting in tandem with the the Somali TFG forces), I figured it would be a good time to reacquaint our policymakers with what a successful counterinsurgency effort looks like. As predicted by so many right-wing pundits, the Ethiopians were going to teach us how to win such a conflct through their potent mixture of unrestrained brutality, disregard for human rights and control of the media - all buttressed by a dearth of back-stabbing Ethiopian/Somali peaceniks. So, with almost a year gone, one would assume that Ethiopia has this insurgency all but mopped up:

[Last night saw] some of the heaviest fighting in weeks in the capital. Overnight, at least eight civilians and one policeman died during a battle between Islamic insurgents and policemen, said residents and the police on Wednesday.

The civilians killed during the late Tuesday battle died when mortars crashed into their houses during fighting that began when 100 insurgents blasted a police station in the south of Mogadishu with heavy machine-guns and rocket propelled grenades, residents said.

"Buildings shuddered and weapons exchanged by the two sides illuminated the sky of the city," said Abdullahi Hussein Mohamud, who also said some mortars landed near his home that is some distance away from where the battle took place.

Abdi Haji Nur, a businessman, said that the insurgents captured the station, forcing about 30 policemen based there to flee.

Not exactly last throes, huh. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the Somali faction that the Bush administration tagged as our ambassadors is acting in a manner that reflects well on the US:

The head of U.N. food agency operations in the violence-wracked Somali capital was taken away Wednesday by 50 to 60 heavily armed government security officers who had stormed the U.N. compound in Mogadishu, the agency said. [...]

The World Food Program suspended aid distribution in Mogadishu in response to the detention of the official, Irdris Osman. [...]

Osman was being held in a cell at the National Security Service headquarters and the WFP has not received any explanation for the action, the agency said, adding his detention violated international law.

Well, surely our Somali allies had a good reason to conduct such a raid:

Interior Minister Mohamed Mohamoud Guled...added that the WFP last month distributed food aid without consulting the government, a reason that the government has in recent months used to block distributions to areas perceived to be against the government.

Oh, they're just trying to block food from reaching certain impoverished areas. Must be another facet of that exemplary counterinsurgency strategy I keep hearing so much about. Still, we might have to concede that we misjudged the Somalis that we endorsed. Our Ethiopian allies would never engage in such practices though:

The Ethiopian government is starving and killing its own people in the remote eastern Ogaden region, according to refugees, who describe a terrifying four-month crackdown in which security forces have sealed off villages, torched homes and businesses, commandeered food and water sources, and beaten, raped or executed anyone who resists.

Hundreds of civilians already may have been killed in the crackdown on a separatist movement known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front, according to interviews with dozens of Ogadenis who've gathered in a steadily growing refugee camp in this steamy port city 300 miles from the Ethiopian border.

"They strangled my wife with a rope," said Ahmed Mohammed Abdi, a 35-year-old farmer from Degehabur province, who came home one day this month to see his wife's body lying by the door, his 1-month-old son still suckling at her breast. That night, he fled into the bush and began a seven-day trek to the relative safety of northern Somalia.

"If you come and try to identify the dead body, the soldiers will beat you also," said the wiry, wide-eyed Abdi. "I was afraid to be killed, so I ran away."

A top aide to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi rejected the allegations. The government has barred reporters and international relief groups from most of the region, a vast desert that stretches from the central Ethiopian highlands to the border with Somalia.

Since June, soldiers have confiscated food and medicine from shops, stolen camels and livestock and blocked people from using water wells, refugees said. Few commercial trucks have been allowed in, and relief workers say that food and humanitarian aid also has been stopped for most of the summer.

Perfect. Anyone want to take a guess at what that's doing to our image in the region?

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