HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

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.

10 Comments

Thank you Mr. Clay for taking into account the responses of your readers. I am sure it is appreciated by them all, including myself.

The current situation, in which it seems that the US national interest and those of Eritrea are diametrically opposed should not be taken as fact. In fact, I believe that the interests of both nations is quite in tune.

For instance, both nations would benefit from a peaceful Horn of Africa; the United States would benefit as its vessels, both commercial and military travel in the area continuously, while Eritrea would benefit from the stability in the region.

As regards US-Eritrean relations however, the Government of Eritrea finds itself in a difficult predicament; it of course desires amicable relations with the people and Government of the United States, however, it also requires a fully defined border.

Unfortunately the US State Department has chosen the most populous nation in the Horn of Africa as their bulwark against terrorism. This country, Ethiopia, suffers from a number of maladies, including numerous internal armed insurgencies, at least two external conflicts and a history of subjugation of its Muslim majority.

For its part however, the Government of Eritrea has done its part to try to bring peace to the Horn; from mediating the Sudanese conflicts in both the East and West as well between the Somalis. It is in this that Eritrea drew the ire of the US. The first truly unifying force in nearly two decades of anarchy in Somalia required mediation. It was this same force that when in power in Somalia was able to prevent the piracy that had been rife with piracy.

Since the Ethiopian invasion however, piracy has returned, street battles are again a daily occurrence, and now Somali anger with Ethiopia is increasing. The brutal conflict taking place there could have been avoided by positively engaging with them as Eritrea had done, however, Ethiopia's interests were not served by a stabilized and nationalistic Somalia.

Thus, US national interest in the Horn of Africa is being led by the Government of Ethiopia, which unfortunately has only done lip service to the idea of Eritrean Independence and sovereignty. It is because of this logic that we are in the situation we are today, it needn't be this way though. A just policy of political engagement would be the only sustainable solution.

eritrea is also believed to sponsor the LTTE terrorists fighting sri lanka. anyway last month the eritrean dictator said the constitution is "just a piece of paper" and he doesn't seem to start elections or allow any free media. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys now has home in eritrea while the people are suffering and impoverished, according to recent New York Times articles. africa needs to save eritrea from the dictatorial regime in asmara. it is the best for world stability

Hi,
I thought your article was great last week, and your response today is also just as great. I had written about the issue sometime ago after I had personally witnessed the presense of the Somali terrorist leadership in Asmara's Imperial Hotel during summer. It looks like you have a good grasp of Eritrea's Situation. You did a great job. You can read my article in the link below and even read the rest of my report on my trip to Eritrea dring summer. Keep it up. Please, visit this two links below.

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=40639

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewByAuthor.asp?authorID=2200

Dear Clay,

I am very sorry reding your article regarding attempting and pushing to put ennocent Eritrea to the State Sponsored Terrorist list.

This is based on untrue evidenve and hetrade of the people of Eritrea. Why don't you write a treat wach regarding the US refusal to put effors as a garantor to the Algers agriment of the EEBC regaring the border comflict in order to bring a lasting peace to the Horn of Africa

Clay,

Some times we see what we want to see. I worked in the region for a long time and see things differently.
Little do people know that United States always had huge interest in Eritrea. Infact the struggle for independence started because we sold them down the river to Ethiopia after World war II in return for a massive Spy communication listening post in Asmara between 1955-78.

After the second world war (1952) before the U.N. with the assistance from United States federated Eritrea to Ethiopia, the then U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said

"From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally Ethiopia."

I suggest you read the book "I did not do it for you" By Michella Wrong or listen to her interview with NPR below.
www.npr.org/templates/story/
story.php?storyId=4729800
www.kagnewstation.com)

So you have to ask yourself what is motivating Eritrea to act the way it is acting ?

It is mainly to do with a disputed land and their border with Ethiopia. The US,UN and AU were acting as arbitrators and the disputed land was found to be Eritrean. The US, rather than playing even handed approach and keeping both countries friendly, it chose to side with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is dragging its feet because it suits it as 25% of Eritrean land is on the DMZ and Eritrea can not demobilize its huge army. This has been going on for 7 years and no one wants to enforce the rule of law.

Eritrea sees this as a repeat of the double cross of that happened in the 50's.

If you ask me, the easiest solution for this mess is to pressure Ethiopia as the major donor to accept sooner than later the UN border delineation which is unavoidable. That way the US can reduce the powder keg pressure and deal with the real threat.

You can read a very well written article on the horn of Africa by John Prendergast who worked in NSC and DOS.

http://www.crisisgroup.org/home
/index.cfm?id=4679

why are you allowing just pro-eritrea comments on your page????????
according to US state department eritrean regime allowed safe heaven to sudanese rebels before darfur problem began. even eritrea regime vacated sudanese embassy in asmara to house the anti-sudan rebels! in addition eritrea armed east sudanese rebels causing tensions on angry sudanese government. so even though the eritrean rogue regime helped al-qaeda in somalia, it has been doing similar devil work everywhere. now it wants to be praised for trying to solve the sudan problem it started.
in ethiopia it armed gambella rebels, oromo rebels, ogaden rebels. again it started arming anti-djibouti rebels. then again it started war with yemen. this rogue regime can not even feed one of the smallest population in africa and bread lines have become reality. no religious freedom as eritrean christians are coming to ethiopia. no elections. eritrea is only african country without independent media. the dictator gave indefinite time to start democracy meanwhile it has been arming dissidents in ethiopia to ruin the ethiopian elections and ethiopian attempt to democracy. this eritrea regime is also basically eradicating a whole ethnic group called kunama. many came to ethiopia and this year thousands were airlifted to america.
it is unexplainable why you are allowing only pro-eritrea regime comments. isaias afewerki dictatorship needs to go so than we can have peace in the region. we want martin luther kings who seek peaceful change not numerous rebels armed by eritrea.
the sick eritrea regime knows poverty exists in the region and it hunts around for dissidents to arm against other countries. shame!!!

Dear Clay,

You said “despotic Isaias Afwerki”. Such terminology is not expected of a person of your status. I’m afraid your ignorance of Eritrea has no boundaries; and you keep proving us right with every mis-statement. Besides, if Isaias is “despotic”, then we’d have to invent new vocabulary to describe the heinous nature of current U.S. administration and it’s “allies” in Africa.

As for Eritrea "supplying weapons to Somalia", you are about a year too late with your regurgitation of lies. Somehow you conveniently forgot to add the famous first lie about 2000 "Eritrean soldiers in Somalia" by the source you based this second lie. And we can’t wait to see you regurgitate a new lie once this second shamelss lie also loses stream.

I have been teaching CAP cadets current events and political science during this past year. As part of that, we do a "OSINT Brief" kind of thing that in this case covers North East Africa. By the end of 2008 I believe there will be at least 12 fully operational US forward bases in the region, most aimed North of Kenya, within Ethiopia and to the West. These are designed to teach the local forces and governments how to stop the spread of AQ before it gets epidemic.

Dear Sir I read you article and found it very realistic. Telling the truth as it is is hard.But You did it. God Bless you. Thank you

There have been several comments made about Eritrea on Several Blogs. The question is when will they go to war with Ethiopia? Another question is when will they stop the Persecution of both Independent Media outlets and Religious Groups?