Thursday, June 08, 2006

Collapse of US-Supported Somali Warlords Poses Strategic Challenges for Washington, and the Horn

Extract from Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis June 7, 2006 Confidential 1Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis Founded in 1972. Formerly Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily. Volume XXIV, No. 36 Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Special Report

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS, with input from GIS sources in Mogadishu and the Horn of Africa.

The fall of Mogadishu, Somalia’s largest city and sometime capital, on June 5, 2006, to Islamist-jihadist militias linked with al-Qaida was a major blow to the US Central Intelligence Agency and US Defense Department, quite apart from the damage it portended for stability in the Horn of Africa and East Africa. But within the Washington, DC, power establishment, the collapse of the Somali “warlords” of the “Alliance for Restoration of Police and Counter Terrorism” proved to be a vindication for the US State Department which — in the continual power struggle between Defense and State in the US capital — had been left uninformed of the operations being undertaken in Somalia by the CIA and Defense. Significantly, the war underway in Somalia remains as much an inter-clan conflict as one which has been portrayed, for the purposes of gaining international support by the different factions, as a war between Islamist-jihadists and pro-Western anti-terrorist groups.

As well, despite the reported “fall” of Mogadishu on June 4-5, 2006, renewed fighting by Alliance groups against the Islamists began on June 6, 2006, and was described as “the heaviest fighting ever seen in Mogadishu”, a city which had historically seen considerable fighting.
GIS sources in Mogadishu confirmed that at least four major jihadist groups were involved in take-over of the city: al-Ittihad al-Islami (Islamic Union/Islamic Unity Party), al-Takfir Wal Hijra, al-Islah, and al-Tabligh (which provided much of the manpower). These groups on Sunday, June 4, 2006, also seized the town of Balad, 30 miles from Mogadishu, a strategic junction which controls the route to Jowhar, to where most of the warlord troops had withdrawn by the afternoon of Monday, June 5, 2006. The four main jihadist groups had essentially taken the population groups which had hitherto been supportive of the moderate Sufic al-Sunna Wal Jama’a movement.

The routing of the US-armed warlords, or clan chiefs, laid open the prospect for further destabilization in the north of the Horn, particularly in Somaliland, which has been stable and which is under an elected, secular Government, and in the southern border region of Somalia with Kenya. It also posed a major threat to Ethiopia, which now remained vulnerable to a resumption of the conflict in its highland areas adjoining Somalia. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), essentially an extension of al-Ittihad, was reviving operations in the Ethiopian plateau region.

Washington sources said that US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, had been “kept in the dark” about activities being undertaken by the CIA and Defense Department in the region. These activities included, over recent months, the training, arming, and paying of the forces belonging to the warlords. Just before the collapse of Mogadishu, GIS sources reported that US aircraft had been flying cash, and presumably additional weapons and ordnance, in to Mogadishu, and that “white men, believed to be Americans” were seen carrying boxes of cash directly to the houses of the warlords. US sources separately reported that the US had been providing the Alliance for Restoration of Police and Counter-Terrorism with $100,000 a month in cash.

Extract from Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis June 7, 2006 Confidential 2
The US had also been engaged in training and support operations for the warlords, from Ethiopian bases.

Several sources inside the Mogadishu situation told GIS that:

1. The initial target was the take-over of Mogadishu and the routing of the clan chiefs (warlords), the nominal Somalian Government, and any international presence in the city, and then using Mogadishu as a base for expanded offensive operations elsewhere. It was planned to create, around Mogadishu, an Islamist emirate;

2. The second target was the destabilization of Somaliland and the collapse of the Government there, with the takeover by jihadists of the capital, Hargeisa;

3. The third target was the expansion of offensive military operations against Ethiopia on the Ethiopian plateau area, which is essentially occupied by ethnic Somalis. In all of this, the jihadists intended to bypass Djibouti;

4. The fourth target was the expansion of operations through Kismayo and Mombassa to consolidate the existing base of jihadist support in Kenya (using the Somalis in the north-east of Kenya).

The sources confirmed that the jihadist leadership had said that they intended to remove, as quickly as possible, the governments of Somaliland, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Significantly, many (if not most) of the jihadist fighters were not Somali. In the town of Balad, for example, most of the jihadist fighters appeared hooded, with only their eyes and the face around the eyes showing. Most were clearly lighter-skinned and not African, and were believed to be a mix of Afghanis, Indians, and Pakistanis. Some observers said that they believed also that some of the Africans who were involved were Oromos, who were bent on supporting the Ogaden operations inside Ethiopia, as part of their ongoing war with the Ethiopian Government.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) had long been supported and funded by Eritrea, Libya, Egypt, and Islamists, even though the group is mostly not Muslim (but merely opposed to the mostly- Christian Ethiopian Government).

It was also of considerable political significance that, on June 6, 2006, in Mogadishu the conquering jihadists moved into the building which had served as headquarters for the Alliance for Restoration of Police and Counter Terrorism, and converted it to an “Islamic court”. In the north, the Government of Somaliland intercepted several shipments of weapons and fighters which had come in from Yemen, a nominally pro-US supporter in the “war on terror”. The Hargeisa Government had intercepted two major shipments of arms during the three weeks leading up to the collapse of Mogadishu. Of these, one of the groups being attacked by the Government forces had split into two, with one part going into the area of Somalia known as Puntland, on the Somaliland border. One shipment came directly from Yemen into the Somaliland port of Berbera and was captured, and fighters with that group reportedly indicated that they were attempting to start an uprising in the Somaliland city of Burao, which had an enclave of Wahhabist jihadists.

Somaliland, however, does not have sufficient police to handle the growing number of attempted incursions, even though it has mobilized support from the Somaliland Armed Forces. Within all of this, former Somalia Interim President Abdiqasim Salat Hassan, a member of the Ayr sub-clan of the Habargdir (itself a sub-clan of the Haweye), was engaged as much in a territorial war with other sub-clans of the Haweye (notably the Abgal sub-clan) as in supporting the Islamists. However, sources close to Salat said that the former President had now become an “Islamist extremist” and was surrounded by a group of former Somali Army officers and experienced foreign al-Qaida fighters from abroad.

Somali villagers, elsewhere in the country, on June 6, 2006, began grassroots protests against the “Ayr land-grab”, seeing the dispute more as clan-based territorial warfare, rather than a battle over religious beliefs, which were more of a cloak for support from Islamists and Muslims abroad.

Extract from Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis

June 7, 2006 Confidential3

At the same time, one warlord, Hussein Mohamed Aideed, son of the late major warlord, Mohamed Farah Aideed, was now reported to be living in Mogadishu with four wives and was described as a committed Islamist, supporting the jihadist groups engaged in the current conflict. In all of this, the US, in particular, now faced a strategic crisis at a time when the George W. Bush Administration was attempting to focus on easing confrontations in the broader Middle East. Arguably, apart from the critical nature of Iran, the Horn of Africa holds the key to much of the oil and general cargo trade through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, and with it much of the viability of global trade. With the anti- jihadist warlords of Somalia now on the defensive, the US — as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and others — faced the question of securing the vital elements of the Horn, particularly Ethiopia and Somaliland. Significantly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen had, for a variety of reasons, opposed recognition of Somaliland and its highly-successful, stable Government.

Yemen was concerned that the precedent of Somaliland breaking from the Somalia union (entered into by the then-sovereign states of the former British Somaliland, now Somaliland, and the former Italian Somaliland, to create the union) by Somaliland would give impetus for the former South Yemen (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) to attempt a break-away from the now-unified Yemen Republic. The Yemeni Government gave this as the reason it was, de facto, supporting the Somalian leadership of former Puntland warlord Col. Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed, who has historically tried to conquer Somaliland. But, in fact, the true “de facto support” from Yemen was, as a result, in favor of the jihadists.

Egypt consistently blocked Arab League and African Union recognition of Somaliland’s withdrawal from the Somalia union because it feared that the strategically-placed Somaliland and its port of Berbera — from which the entrance to the Red Sea can be dominated — could be used by Israel. Saudi Arabia, too, has consistently rejected Somaliland because, despite being a Muslim country, it had a secular, democratic government.

One of the few options available to the other African Union states — some of which were now under threat from the attempt to create a jihadist state in Somalia — and the US and Britain (which had historical reasons for its strong engagement in Somaliland) was to unilaterally recognize Somaliland, or to ensure massive injections of support into the country to counter any attempts to destroy it. Similarly, the threat to Ethiopia now also translated into a more dire threat to Egypt — because of Ethiopia’s control of the headwaters of the Blue Nile — if a jihadist takeover of part or all of Ethiopia was possible in the medium-term. It was getting to the point where Egypt’s need for a stable Ethiopia, even under the present Ethiopian Government, was more valuable strategically than supporting Eritrea’s animus against Ethiopia and Somaliland.

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