The brave and strong Islamist forces who took over in Somalia are, a few days after Ethiopia joined the fight, on the run.
Islamic fighters were in a tactical retreat Tuesday, a senior Islamic leader said, as government and Ethiopian troops advanced on three fronts in a decisive turn around in the battle for control of Somalia.
Somalia’s internationally backed government called on the Council of Islamic Courts to surrender and promised them amnesty if they lay down their weapons and stop opposing the government, spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said from Baidoa, the seat of the government.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, leader of the Council of Islamic Courts’ executive body, said the group had asked its troops to withdraw from some areas.
Obviously, the war isn’t over yet. Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed (I wonder how his friends call him… ‘triple s’?) refuses to give up:
“The war is entering a new phase,” he said. “We will fight Ethiopia for a long, long time and we expect the war to go everyplace.”
It could be that Ethiopia will need help from other countries, the West should – obviously – support Ethiopia immediately when Ethiopia asks for it, especially considering the quite real possibility that this war will destabilize the region (as far as this region is any more destabilizable that it is right now).
Experts fear the conflict in Somalia could engulf the region. John Prendergast, a senior adviser with the International Crisis Group, said the war “dangerously escalates regional tensions and leaves the Horn of Africa less secure than it has been in a long time.”
Some analysts also fear that the courts movement hopes to make Somalia a third front, after Afghanistan and Iraq, in militant
Islam’s war against the West.
I do have one concern: it seems to me that the West is allowing a great opportunity to pass by. Not so much an opportunity to beat Islamist forces (Ethiopia can come a long way by itself), but an opportunity to do some much important PR work: the West should use this opportunity: it should come in with money, knowledge and materials and rebuild Somalia. Richer countries are less likely to become radical.
Justin Delabar wrote yesterday:
Ethiopia fears militant Islam surrounding it, threatening its traditionally Christian culture and government. With an unstable Sudan to the west â€” a country that glady housed Osama bin Laden in the 1990s â€” and now Islamic Courts Union-ruled Somalia to the east, Ethiopia is certainly in a precarious position. The question is how much support will Ethiopia receive in its operations against the Courts Union in Somalia; will the US provide military aid?
As scrutiny on extremist elements increases in the Middle East, there is a greater chance that they will view Africa as the central and southern Asia of the 21st century; a relative backwater where extremist elements can operate with little scrutiny. The United States and its allies cannot sit idly by and watch such an outcome occur. Bin Laden chose Sudan and then Afghanistan since it was clear no one paid attention to either Africa or Central Asia. Perhaps attention should be paid this time.
I agree completely with Justin. Africa has been ignored, which has been – and continues to be – a major mistake. Lets focus on Africa.
H/t Ed Morrissey, who – accurately – writes:
The Ethiopians will not capture Mogadishu, they claim. They will instead encircle it, pressuring the Islamists to negotiate for their surrender to the Somalian government. The Ethiopians do not want to spend much time in Somalia — they characterized their mission length as “a few weeks” — but they do want to strip the Islamists of their aura of invincibility.
They seem to be accomplishing that mission rather handily. The UIC apparently did not anticipate the Ethiopian thrust into Somalia and obviously did not prepare for it. The UIC has pledged to take their war into Ethiopia as a guerilla campaign, even to Addis Ababa, but perhaps they should concentrate on the one war that they are losing rather badly at the moment
Although the battle for Somalia is far from over, one gets the feeling that the Islamist forces got a bit, umh, overly passionate.