Somalia: Futility


September 16, 2010: No good news from Somalia. The TNG (Transitional National Government) is falling apart. The warlords and clans that comprise the TNG are at odds over clan politics and who can steal what portions of foreign aid money and other types of aid. Most factions are based on clans, and clan politics is often very personal and full of ancient feuds. The Somalis don't get along with each other, or non-Somalis either. Overcoming this problem has proved very difficult, for a very long time.

It was 21 months ago that Ethiopia completed withdrawing its troops from Somalia. Already, other nations in the region are asking Ethiopia to send its troops back in. Ethiopia is the only one in the region (if not in Africa, with the possible exception of South Africa) who can handle the Somali gunmen. Somalis and Ethiopians have been neighbors, and at war with each other, for centuries. While the Ethiopians have learned how to deal with the Somalis, they would rather not. It's a nasty business, and these days you get accused of war crimes if you are too good at it for too long.

In January 2009, several hundred heavily armed members of al Shabaab seized control of Baidoa, long the headquarters for the Transitional National Government (TNG). For the TNG and al Shabaab, control of anything is largely symbolic. The loss of Baidoa caused the TNG to move to Mogadishu (the traditional national capital and largest city in Somalia). The TNG represents an attempt by the traditional Somali power brokers to get along with each other and form a government. That has not worked very well. Al Shabaab represents the efforts of one Islamic radical faction to take over the entire country and establish an Islamic dictatorship. That won't work either, if only because there are several other factions of Islamic radicals competing with al Shebab. And if the Islamic radicals are too successful, the Ethiopians (who have made no secret of this plan) will come back. And then there are the U.S. and NATO commandos up north in Djibouti, who are also ready for anything. But they are not holding any press conferences about it, unlike al Shabaab, which loves to tell the world what it's doing, or thinks it's doing, or plans on doing. The African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Mogadishu are getting reinforcements and more offensive-minded ROE (Rules of Engagement).

 The Sufi militias in central Somalia are seeing more al Shabaab activity. The Sufis, defending themselves from al Shabaab violence (based on al Shabaab belief that Sufis were heretics) have kept the area quiet for the last few months. But some al Shabaab factions are discouraged with the inability to make much headway against the AU (African Union) peacekeepers in Mogadishu. But the AU ROE (Rules of Engagement) keep the troops in Mogadishu, so moving into Sufi towns or the northern statelets of Puntland and Somaliland is seen as more productive to the Islamic radical cause.

Eretria, which supports anyone opposed to Ethiopia, has apparently financed a move of Somali Ethiopian rebels (from the border province of Ogaden) into Somaliland. But local militias halted and surrounded most of the invaders. Captured rebels admitted the Eritrean connection, as did captured material (currency and documents).

September 12, 2010: A notorious Somali-American al Shabaab leader, Dahir Gurey Sheikh Ali Guled, was killed fighting TNG forces.

September 11, 2010: In Mogadishu, a roadside bomb killed five TNG soldiers. Elsewhere in the city, TNG police say they foiled an al Shabaab terrorist attack on the sea port. 





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