Reversal of Fortunes in Somalia: Mogadishu Siege
Ethiopia has emerged as the only nation willing to directly confront the al-Qaeda franchise Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, driving into the east African nation with tanks and pushing the Islamists and their fighters - including foreign terrorists poured in from around the Middle East - back to the eastern shores of Mogadishu.
After rolling though Somalia and driving the ICU out of Somali cities and towns along the way, Ethipian forces have pulled up and surrounded Mogadishu. A siege strategy like that once employed by the ICU on the last remaining Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) stronghold of Baidoa is being employed by Ethiopian forces. The stated intent is to avoid civilian losses.
But the Telegraph’s Mike Pflanz notes the likely futility of such a move “as Mogadishu sits on the Indian Ocean, allowing sympathetic foreign fighting forces to land on the beach to reinforce and re-arm” the Islamist forces via their al-Qaeda lifeline. An American-led naval blockade would greatly assist by sealing the fourth side of a three-sided Ethiopian siege effort.
But the United States is calling for a return to negotiations in Somalia, and it remains to be seen whether American naval forces will be ordered to assist the forward-leaning Ethiopian government and its unapologetic engagement of the Islamists seeking an al-Qaeda foothold on the Horn of Africa.
While noting American support of Ethiopian actions, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos also signaled a less than forward-leaning American approach to action on the Horn by also saying, “We’ve instructed our ambassadors in the region to meet with governments to urge them to pressure Somalis to return to the negotiating table. We do not believe this can be resolved on the battlefield.” The African Union has demanded an outright withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia.
Speaking to the UN Security Council Tuesday, Kofi Annan’s special representative to Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, echoed such demands and calls. “Unless a political settlement is reached through negotiations, Somalia, I am afraid, will face a period of deepening conflict and heightened instability, which would be disastrous for the long-suffering people of Somalia, and could also have serious consequences for the entire region,’’ he said.
But the long-suffering people of Somalia face even greater long-term perils – as does the rest of the region and the world – through resumed inaction that would allow the Islamic Courts Union and its al-Qaeda ‘management’ to continue its progress, allowing an al-Qaeda terrorist foothold and Taliban-style Islamist rule over the whole of Somalia.
It must be recognized by Western leaders – most notably the United States – that the coveted ‘negotiation process’ is what permitted the ICU to harvest Somali territory for al-Qaeda in the first place. Negotiation must take place after the Islamists will has been broken in Somalia by force alone, not beforehand. For force is the language they speak with and the only language they have an ear for.