Somalia: Ethiopia Runs Into Jihad

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July 23, 2006: Ethiopians in Somalia may prove interesting. Recently, the UN undertook a program improve the quality of peacekeeping troops supplied by certain countries. Ethiopia was specifically cited as providing poorly trained and physically unfit personnel. Ethiopian peacekeepers often turned up for duty badly equipped and were rarely paid (with Ethiopian officials taking the UN payments). This led to poor morale and discipline, and resulted in some Ethiopian peacekeepers going into business for themselves. The troops going into Somalia may be of higher quality, but not a lot. That said, at least the Ethiopians are trained soldiers. The Somalis, even the best of them, are warriors. These lads are long on bravado and short on discipline. Back in 1994, when U.S. troops fought warlord forces in Mogadishu, over twenty Somali gunmen died for each U.S. soldier. In the past, Ethiopians have usually gotten the better of Somali troops, and did even better against Somali irregulars. That said, the Ethiopians are not invincible against Somalis, otherwise, Ethiopia would include the coastal areas that now comprise Somalia. But for centuries, the Arabs have actively assisted the Somalis in keeping the Ethiopians away. The coastal areas of East Africa have had an Arab flavor for thousands of years. That interference continues, with the Islamic Courts receiving weapons from Yemen, either directly, or via traders in Eritrea.
July 22, 2006: Over a hundred Ethiopian troops moved into the town of Wajid, which is 75 kilometers from the Ethiopian border. The town is also a UN base for aid operations in the area. Small groups of Transitional Government and Islamic Courts gunmen are clashing in northern Somalia. Unlike in the recent past, the Islamic Courts are not routing their opponents, and are often taking losses and withdrawing.
July 21, 2006: The leader of the Islamic Courts declared jihad (holy war) against Ethiopia. Keep in mind that the Islamic Courts are basically a collection of warlords who are fed up with the anarchy, and willing to back Islamic clerics acting (as they traditionally do) as judges. The Islamic Courts gunmen promise not to steal, and to maintain peace wherever they are. This does not always work, and some groups of Islamic Courts militiamen are more Islamic than others.
July 20, 2006: The Islamic Courts have taken complete control of the port of Mogadishu, the first time anyone has had uncontested control of the port in fifteen years. During all that time, several warlords asserted control over the port, but none was strong enough to take over. As a result, the port was never fully operational, or you had to pay off so many different warlords that it wasn't worth shipping your good out through Mogadishu. But now, with the port back in action, the Islamic Courts will have access to over a million dollars a month in taxes and fees. Private businessmen will provide the resources for repairs and port operation. Control of the Mogadishu, the largest port in the country, also enables the Islamic Courts to control fishing along most of the coast, and get a cut of whatever the Somali pirates take in. The pirates, in effect, are the Somali coast guard.
Several hundred Ethiopian troops rolled into the Transitional Government capital of Baidoa.
July 19, 2006: Islamic Courts gunmen have advanced to within 40 kilometers of Baidoa, the capital of the Transitional Government. Ethiopia said it would not let the Islamic Courts destroy the Transitional Government. Ethiopia is also trying to stop the growth of Islamic radicalism in Somalia. Ethiopia has problems with its own rebellious Moslem tribes, and doesn't want Islamic terrorists added to the mix. Ethiopia believes that the Islamic Courts are providing sanctuary for al Qaeda operators, and would let these troublemakers operate from Somali sanctuary, while making mischief in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, Islamic Courts gunmen have begun arresting Somalis caught watching videos in theaters. The Islamic Courts take a Taliban-like attitude towards public entertainments.

 

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