MilitarysourcesclosetothefightinginSomaliatellusthattheSomali transitionalfederalgovernmentand the Ethiopian forces are winning battles against the pro-al Qaeda Islamic Courts Union (ICU).
However, the long-term solution is “in question” because of the determination of the Islamists and the support they are getting from radicals outside the Horn of Africa.
One former military official told us that it is hoped the Ethiopian military forces will withdraw once they have defeated the ICU forces in Somalia and the forces of the transitional federal government (TFG) can hold on.
The international community then will need to step up and “get in there and strengthen the Somali political process and provide humanitarian aid,” the former official said.
“All Somali institutions are going to need to be ramped up quickly, to include police and emergency services, border controls, hospitals and medical infrastructure, commerce, etc.,” he said.
“If the TFG has the agility to fill the void created by the collapse of the ICU, then Somalia and the Horn will be fairly stable. It all depends on how the TFG negotiates a settlement with the ICU.”
The goal for ending the conflict is to reach a negotiated settlement between the TFG and ICU by peeling off some centrist elements of the ICU while isolating hard-line leaders such as Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, head of the ICU’s legal council, and his key protege, Aden Hashi Ayro. Both are considered key allies to al Qaeda terrorists in north Africa.
Somali troops entered Mogadishu unopposed on Dec. 28 to the cheers of their countrymen.
A quick Ethiopian military withdrawal will be key to stability.
“The biggest concern for Somalis in general has been the continued involvement of outsiders within their country and I believe that if Ethiopia gets out quick then Somalia may well be on its way to stability,” the former official said.
The U.S. government and military have been slow to recognize the growing danger of a new al Qaeda-aligned regime in Somalia and have done little in the way of backing the anti-al Qaeda forces, we are told.
Covert U.S. support would have prevented the Ethiopian incursion, which still may fail if extremists from Eritrea, Iran and Sudan step up support for the ICU. “Al Qaeda may seek to introduce additional forces into the area now,” the former official said, noting that the support will be a key test to see how much “throw weight” the group still has left globally.