The tables have turned in Somalia as the al-Qaeda franchise, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), streams violently back into the capital city of Mogadishu. The ICU was routed and the Islamists largely driven from Somalia in an offensive that began in December and ended on Somalia’s southeastern border with Kenya. But the strategy of military diffusion of an ideologically determined enemy – vice actually defeating them in place – has come back to haunt Somalia in short order.
Launching an Iraq-style insurgency from Mogadishu, two suicide car bombers struck an Ethiopian army barracks and killed dozens. The TFG and Ethiopians responded with a counter-insurgency offensive into Mogadishu that is ongoing. In the fighting, said to be the worst in 15 years in Mogadishu, thousands in the crossfire have fled the city.
The insurgency has been supplied with anti-aircraft missiles, which were employed to shoot down a Belarusian transport plane shuttling in Ugandan peacekeeping forces and an Ethiopian helicopter. Ethiopian tanks have been destroyed by anti-tank fire and the bodies of killed Ethiopian and TFG troops have been in at least one instance desecrated, burned and dragged through the streets in celebration. To make matters worse, the Ethiopians had already begun to pull out their relatively well-trained forces and return home. They surely will not remain engaged with al-Qaeda’s ICU insurgency for long.
It is not too late to help the Somalis save themselves from being overrun by al-Qaeda’s Islamic Courts Union and having their troubled and embattled nation transformed into an al-Qaeda safe haven and base of terrorist operations. But they require direct help and assistance immediately.