A Response to Readers on Eritrea: Who Knew?
First, I would like to thank all of the ThreatsWatch readers who took the time to read and reply to my previous article on Eritrea. It’s gratifying to know that one’s work is reaching an audience, whether in agreement or not.
As the mission of the Center for Threats Awareness is to increase public knowledge of national security threats, coverage of Eritrea’s possible inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism seemed apt. I make a concerted effort to be knowledgeable on current events, but this was a development that had missed my attention for several weeks after the fact.
It is an unfortunate fact that the average American has probably never heard of Eritrea and as such might be inclined to deem the country unimportant, hence my language. It was with this background that I sought to approach the topic and to make the point through my article [Eritrea: Who Knew?] that the country is in fact important.
Indeed, Eritrea has been a target of al Qaeda in the past and Secretary Rumsfeld visited Eritrea in 2002 sounding a call for improved relations between the two countries. However, circumstances change with time, as does a country’s national interest. Mr. Rumsfeld also visited Iraq in 1983 where he met with Saddam Hussein. That visit did not preclude Rumsfeld from advocating the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Further, Rumsfeld is no longer in government. Considering that he was secretary of defense, even if he was still in government, Rumsfeld would have no role in the decision regarding Eritrea’s status as the state sponsors of terrorism list is a State Department prerogative.
Finally, the government of Eritrea, headed by the despotic Isaias Afwerki, has made the conscious choice to harbor figures of the Islamic Courts Union like Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and also to supply weaponry to insurgent forces that have killed and wounded civilians.