Ethiopia: Somalia is Invaded


December26, 2006: As expected, Ethiopian troops drove Islamic Courts fighters from several towns around Baidoa. The Islamic Courts can harass the Ethiopians, but they cannot stop them. The Islamic Courts don't have an army, but rather a collection of warlord and tribal militias. They also ahve several hundred foreign Islamic radicals. Some of these guys have military training, and they are much more motivated. Actually, many Somalis are motivated to resist Ethiopian invasions, but in a straight up fight, the Somalis are at a disadvantage. The Ethiopians are better trained, armed and led. While the Somalis have a reputation for being fierce warriors, the Ethiopians are that too, and for several thousand years they fought off all comers and got organized as well. But in the last half century, the Ethiopians have learned military discipline. The Ethiopians have defeated the Somalis before, and the province bordering Somalia, known as the Ogaden, is largely populated by ethnic Somalis. While the Ethiopians can be pretty brutal to unruly subjects, they have never wanted to control all of Somalia. That's because the Somalis are a really tough bunch to rule. The Somalis can't even rule themselves, and except for a few decades in the late 20th century, never have. For thousands of years, "Somalia" was a region occupied by Somali tribes (called "clans" today) that constantly fought each other, and any outsiders who wandered by.

The Ethiopians are apparently going to beat on the Islamic Courts militias (a few thousand fighters, reinforced by a few thousand more patriotic volunteers), and give the anti-Islamic Courts militias (the UN recognized "Transitional Government") a chance to regain control of more of Somalia. However, the problem remains that the Islamic Courts gained control of most of Somalia because they brought law (Islamic law) and order (of a rather rough sort) to a country overrun by bandits and lawlessness since the early 1990s. The Ethiopians also have some serious logistical problems. They apparently have some 15,000 troops in the area, and supplying them is expensive. It's going to be tempting for the U.S. to try and help out the Ethiopians with cash, or other forms of aid.

December 25, 2006: Ethiopian bombers continued to hit Somalia airports, but not with enough bombs to close them. Landing strips were damaged, but were promptly repaired. The Ethiopian raids will eventually close the airports to large transports, like the kind than can bring in more weapons and munitions. But smaller aircraft can bring in people. Meanwhile, columns of Ethiopian troops, sometimes accompanied by tanks and wheeled armored vehicles, headed for towns near Baidoa, apparently trying to disperse Islamic Courts fighters who had surrounded Baidoa last week.

December 24, 2006: Ethiopia chose Christmas Eve as the date to turn the covert war in Somalia into an overt affair. Not that it was so covert. Since late May, the Somali Islamic Courts militia has been fighting Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG) and its Ethiopian ally. Eritrea supports the Islamic Courts - which makes the war in Somalia an extension of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war. Quite probably Al Qaeda supports the Islamic Courts, since the Islamic Courts (aka Islamic Courts Union and Council of Islamic Courts) is an Islamist organization.

Ethiopian Air Force fighter-bombers struck Islamic Courts positions around Baidoa, Somalia (capital of the TNG). Ethiopia acknowledged the attacks and described the air attacks as "self-defensive." That may be quite literally true, since Ethiopian troops are located around Baidoa. Ethiopia maintains its troops in Somalia are trainers. There were reports that Ethiopian strike aircraft hit other targets near the Ethiopia-Somalia border but no specific information was provided by the Ethiopian government. Western press sources quoted Ethiopia as claiming to have killed 600 Islamic Courts fighters in battles fought from December 21 through 24. The Islamic Courts claimed it has killed 400 Ethiopian troops. All reports stress that these are government claims and there is no independent verification. If the KIAs are even half of what is claimed, the firefights have pitted battalions against battalions, meaning the Ethiopian-TNG forces and the Islamic Courts forces are both deployed in at least brigade strength in the area of action (3000 to 5000 troops).


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