Ethiopia: Eritrea Backs Away From Somalia


January11, 2007: The big question for many in East Africa is "Why didn't Eritrea attack Ethiopia when Ethiopia attacked the Islamic Courts in Somalia?" Eritrea sent advisers to Somalia and had supplied the Islamic Courts with weapons and other supplies. Reports from Eritrea and East Africa now indicate that Eritrea was not prepared to strike along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border, despite reports of Eritrean troop movements during the fall of 2006. One view holds that Eritrea is betting on a "long stay" by Ethiopia in Somalia �" meaning a quagmire of sorts. In fact, Eritrea began touting the quagmire theory in public on January 3. However, Ethiopia insists the majority of its troops will leave Somalia within a few weeks. Another view is that the Eritreans didn't believe the Ethiopians would launch such a sudden, all-out offensive, and be so successful in that offensive. Eritrea is aware that the U.S. and other allies have provided Ethiopia with intelligence data. That may have been another "brake" on Eritrean action. Eritrea has "good observation" of what goes on in Djibouti, which the U.S. has used as its major base in the region. U.S. support flights and unmanned aerial recon vehicles fly from Djibouti. For whatever reason, so far the "Eritrean front" has remained quiet. Eritrea can still make the case to its Somali allies that it has "pinned down" significant Ethiopian forces along its border, but for the cornered Islamic Courts, that's not a lot of solace. (Austin Bay)

January 9, 2007: Ethiopia said it arrested four members of the Oromo Liberation Front. The Ethiopian statement alleged that the four were aiding Somali Islamists. Ethiopia claimed on January 2 that it had captured other OLF fighters in Somalia who were fighting with Islamic Courts forces.

January 8, 2007: More details are emerging as captured Somali Islamists discuss their training experience in Eritrea. Captured Somali Islamists say that they had received training in guerrilla tactics in Eritrea. The training also included instruction in making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and using suicide vests. The training in IED manufacturing and use of suicide vests is not a story Eritrea wants told. The captured men were identified as members of Shebab, a Somali Islamist radical faction. One of the men stated that "several dozen" Arab fighters served with the Islamic Courts forces that were deployed near the town of Baidoa, prior to the Ethiopian offensive.

January 2, 2007: Eritrea "blamed" the United States for Ethiopia's stunningly successful offensive in Somalia.

December 30, 2006: Ethiopia reported progress on a new treaty regulating the use of water in the Nile River watershed (the Nile Basin Initiative). Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia are all involved in the treaty discussions. Ethiopia has used the treaty discussions as a "diplomatic tool" in the region.


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