The Guardian gives some background on what is going on in Somalia right now. It implies that Washington has a bit of influence on what is happening, but the words quoted in the post title say a bit more. They are from Professor Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College, North Carolina. His opinion is that the Ethiopian attack would have happened whether or not the US said a word. Given the overreaching threatening rhetoric of the islamists, I suspect he is correct.
The US, which has a large military base in Djibouti, Somalia's neighbour, faced a dilemma. It had been embarrassed by its policy of backing an alliance of warlords who had failed to stop the Islamists taking control of Mogadishu. Now it had another problem: the SCIC's victory in Mogadishu and its 'creeping radicalism' was being perceived as a victory for jihadists worldwide.
There was never any question of direct US intervention – memories of the disastrous campaign in the Nineties that led to the 'Black Hawk Down' incident precluded that. But in Ethiopia Washington had an ally with no such inhibitions. Soon after the SCIC took power in Mogadishu, Ethiopia began sending thousands of troops over the border to protect the administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, which had no influence beyond its base of Baidoa.
Initially the US urged Ethiopia to act with restraint. But as the Islamists expanded their territory, neared Baidoa and began to talk about 'holy war' against Ethiopia this month, Washington's position changed. Jendayi Frazer, US Assistant Secretary of State, described the top layer of Islamists as 'extremists to the core'.
None the less, according to Professor Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College, North Carolina, Ethiopia's attack would have happened anyway: 'The US has given what the media calls "tacit approval" to Ethiopia, but anyone who follows the region knows that Ethiopia does what it wants to do.'
Bryden said the Ethiopians were now likely to push towards Kismaayo to ensure the SCIC is 'cut off and killed'. But while it will not be easy for them – Kenya has closed the border to the south – he thought it was likely that some of the Shabaab would slip away.
This is not to say that there are not huge challenges for the Somali government. There are. But it may also be true that the reason the islamists were successful in the first place is that the country is tired of war and warlords and wants some order restored. If the Somali government can step up, there is a chance for peace.
After the snake's nest is cleaned out, of course.
Somali troops, supported by Ethiopian tanks and MiG fighter jets, attacked front-line forces of the Islamic group in southern Somalia. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said they would "capture or kill" the terror suspects.
Thousands of residents fled the fertile agricultural area before the battle, carrying blankets, food and water as they headed toward the Kenyan border, 100 miles to the south.
Gedi said Islamic militants in Kismayo, Somalia's third-largest city, were sheltering alleged bombers Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudani. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed more than 250 people.
The latest fighting broke out in Helashid, 11 miles northwest of Jilib, the gateway to Kismayo, where an estimated 3,000 hardcore Islamic fighters were preparing for a bloody showdown.
We'll see. About the Bloody showdown, I mean. Thus far, the islamist's idea of a fight has been to see if it was possible to break the sound barrier with a brisk enough walk. They've been brisking it all the way across the country. Because, of course, they would never run from their enemies. They say so – and their PR department (the Western media) dutifully reports every word they say with a completely straight face.