For years, Somalia was in a state of civil war between the internationally recognized government and Islamist militants. Now Ethiopia has intervened on the government’s side, entering Mogadishu without firing a shot. Meanwhile, the Arab League and African Union are demanding immediate withdrawal, even as Ethiopia’s official policy is to finish the invasion first.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Somalia’s pro-government troops captured the Islamist-stronghold town of Jowhar, about 90 kilometers north of the capital. As the Islamists look to consolidate their manpower and launch a counter-offensive from Mogadishu, the conflict shows no signs of abating, sparking fears of a full-scale regional war.
However, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is optimistic Ethiopian troops will not be engaged in the conflict much longer, telling reporters, “We have a mission to do. We have done more than half of our mission already. As soon as we complete the other half – and it won’t take long – we will be out of there so they won’t have a target to fight against.”
The mission Meles speaks of is to help a government he maintains very strong ties with, based mostly on secular values, such as not executing people for violating the Shari’a. But the rhetoric of completing the mission sounds eerily similar to Bush’s rhetoric about Iraq, with the crucial exception that Meles admits that it’s important to withdraw quickly. On the other hand, the Bush administration was sure that the US military would be able to leave Iraq by summer ’03, and in 1914 the Kaiser promised Germany’s troops that they’d be back from the war before the leaves fell.
In related news, Meles’s denial that the US has contributed to the attack in any way (the USA’s official position is pro-Ethiopian) is a good reminder that in today’s world, a good way to rally people around a position is to say that Bush supports the opposite position.
Also, as expected, the attack produced refugees; the Yemeni government gunned them down.