The Somalia Showdown

All out war between the Islamic Courts and the Somali government is expected shortly; The ICU is also planning international terrorist attacks against the government’s foreign assets

Islamic Courts controlled cities and towns marked in red. Click map to view.

The ‘negotiations’ between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) have broken down, and the final battle is expected shortly. An American intelligence source informs us the battle could begin as early as today. As we noted on October 24th, thousands of ICU, Eritrean and al Qaeda forces are squaring off against thousands of Ethiopian and TFG forces in Somalia. Hundreds of ex-Somali soldiers have just joined the ICU to fight against the Ethiopians. “We are ready to take part in defending our country and we will be part of the Islamic Courts,” said Lieutenant Colonel Abdi Guled, a former Somali Army officer. “I present to you 692 former Somali soldiers of which 44 are senior officers.”

Reuters reports the ICU has “test fired rockets on Friday and prepared for war.” The ICU is no longer saying it will wait for the TFG or Ethiopia to strike first. “The onus is on us to start the fight. We will be the first to strike,” one senior Islamist commander, Maalim Hashi Ahmed, told Reuters by telephone. “If someone takes your shirt, it’s upon you to repossess it. That is what we plan to do… Ethiopia has invaded us so it is our responsibility to remove them from our land. We intend to carry out this obligation as soon as possible.” ICU forces are just 19 miles from the TFG capital of Baidoa.

The negotiations between the TFG and ICU were always a sham. This is the third round of talks, and the ICU continues to conquer territory despite agreements to remain inactive. Any ‘peace agreement’ would have integrated the ICU into the existing government, and would only have served as a Trojan horse to usurp power.

The impending fight is coupled with news that the ICU plans to attack targets in Kenya and Ethiopia. An American intelligence source informs us the ICU is not just targeting U.S. Embassies, but plans to “pull a Godfather” on the TFG by taking out the government’s foreign diplomatic and support elements. This would destroy the TFG’s ability to act as a government-in-exile. The method of attack is believed to be car bombs, an al Qaeda specialty and the same mode of attack used by al Qaeda during the 1998 Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The ICU also conducted suicide bombings in Baidoa just this summer.

The Islamic Courts has backed the TFG and Ethiopian into a corner in southern Somalia. A look at the map shows the TFG’s strategic situation and line of retreat to Ethiopia is tenuous, as the ICU hold positions in an arc to the north, south and east. The questions that remain are how hard will the Ethipians fight the ICU forces, and will the U.S. weigh in on the fighting.

This is an ideal mission for U.S. Special Forces to act as spotters for close air support for the Ethiopian and TFG fighters, much like they did against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. The ICU may hold the upper hand in its geographic positioning, but their forces can be hit with air power while massing for the final push to Baidoa. Will the ICU move to take Baidoa, putting the Bush administration in an awkward position of having to use force in Somalia just prior to the midterm elections?

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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4 Comments

  • Cruiser says:

    I do not think the United States will get directly involved in any significant military way. Spotters for airstrikes would would reveal to the world our involvement.
    From what I can tell, the administration thinks that the ICU, while a horrible development for us, is very popular amoung Somalis (by comparison to the TFG) and is a committed and effective fighting force. The TFG is just a loose alliance that is easy to divide an conquer. To intervene directly on the side of the TFG would be to intervene to support a group that does not have the will or support to win.
    What we may end up doing is providing weapons and and other deniable support to the TFG and to the Ethiopians to help resist the ICU or to harass the ICU, keeping it busy defending itself.

  • Cruiser says:

    The Bush admin may be hoping that once the Somalis get a taste of strict Taliban-like sharia they will grow to reject it and become ripe to overthrow the ICU.

  • C-Low says:

    “God Father Move”
    I like that. But serously that screams AQ stradegy they pulled the same stunt on the N Alliance Masoud in Afghanistan right before 9-11.
    Personally I think this WOT is to widespread for US to do everything every were. Allies carrying some fronts with minimal US support should be our objective allowing US forces to hold the major fronts.
    With that in mind I think christian Ethiopia would make a natural ally to be the mucsle on Somalia. A handfull of US Destroyers to embargo by force and maybe a month or so of US Carrier Air Cover with some spotters would be enough to get a N Alliance overrun of Afghanistan style move by Ethiopia/TFG. Once crushed we could pull back and let Ethiopia and the TFG carry the occupation of Somalia.
    This would allow US with minimal effort on our part to make a more juicy destination for all those Sudan/Somali Jihadi’s splatting in Iraq. A side benefit would be Sudan would start thinking sereously about Chad/Nigeria cross border raids thier own ICU is currently running.
    Either way sounds like a good way to kill a lot of Jihadi’s and not spend much effort doing it. Everyone killed there will be one less to kill in Iraq.

  • Showdown in Somalia:

    All out war between the Islamic Courts and the Somali government is expected shortly. An American intelligence soucre says the Islamic Courts are not just targeting U.S. Embassies, but plan to attack the Somali government’s foreign diplomatic and suppo…

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