News / Africa

Ethiopia's Anti Al-Shabab Push Sparks Concerns of a Backlash

Nico Colombant

While Ethiopia is getting a green light from Somalia's transitional government and neighboring countries to take part in large-scale military actions against Somalia's al-Shabab Islamic insurgents, analysts are concerned the new incursion could further deteriorate an already volatile situation.  

Six weeks after Kenya's government sent troops into southern Somalia to create buffer zones free of al-Shabab militants in that border region, Ethiopia's government is now being given the go ahead to open a front from its western borders, in the growing multilateral offensive against the Islamic rebels.

Diplomats in the region say hundreds of Ethiopian troops supported by armored vehicles and heavy artillery already appear to be headed toward the al-Shabab southern stronghold of Baidoa.

African peacekeepers were able to force the militants from their main positions in the southeastern capital Mogadishu earlier this year, even though terrorist bombings continue there, and attacks have also been carried out in other countries in the Horn of Africa as well.  Al-Shabab also still remains in control of large parts of southern and central Somalia.

Bronwyn Bruton, a Somalia expert with the Atlantic Council research center here in Washington, says she feels much more comfortable when professional soldiers from countries which are not neighbors take part in military operations inside Somalia, than when she sees soldiers from neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

"When you have countries like them entering the fray, you get a worrisome tendency to think there is a free for all. It stirs up the possibilities of a real popular backlash of the kind that we saw back in 2007 and 2008," she said.

At the time, a U.S-backed Ethiopian incursion fought against the Islamic Courts Union. One of the ICU's former leaders, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, now heads the struggling U.S and United Nations-backed transitional government in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab grew out of the fighting, amid widespread resentment in Somalia of what was viewed as a foreign occupation. Bruton says Ethiopian forces have continued covert operations along the border region in recent years, including helping anti al-Shabab militias, despite repeated Ethiopian denials.

Berhanu Mengistu, a professor from Old Dominion University, who took part in a recent conference in the United States concerning the Horn of Africa's response to al-Shabab, points out that Ethiopia clearly has the largest and most efficient military in the region.

But he says Ethiopia's renewed incursion, which closely follows Kenya's entrance, raises many questions. "What is the driving agenda? Was the agenda externally driven or is the agenda internally driven? Who benefits from these interventions and who does not?"

If the U.S. government is backing the strategy as part of anti-terrorism efforts, Mengistu says he would rather like to see more outside efforts to boost the legitimacy of governments across the Horn, including Somalia's and Ethiopia's.  He says the region is currently undergoing a downward spiral of violence which he sees as extremely worrisome.

U.S. officials recently acknowledged they are sending drone aircraft from Ethiopia to conduct surveillance in Somalia, and there have also been reported U.S. drone strikes against al-Qaida linked al-Shabab targets.  

A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, Tibor Nagy, currently working as a provost at Texas Tech University, says he would like to see more  support coming from the United States for the anti al-Shabab operations to quickly succeed.

"What I would like to see is much more U.S. engagement in a leadership capacity, by no means sending American forces in there, but the international troops there are still undermanned, they are undersupplied, despite the hardships from my perspective they have made remarkable progress," he said.

Nagy says he believes there has been renewed international interest in Somalia because of the devastating drought which hit the region this year and caused a famine in several al-Shabab controlled areas. Over the past 20 years, though, he feels foreign policy from all countries intervening in or trying to help Somalia, has been, in his words, a dismal failure.  That is the same amount of time Somalia has not had a functioning central government.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid