Ethiopian troops ambushed amid major push into areas around Baidoa
A major battle outside the Somalian central city of Baidoa on March 10 revealed that the imperialist-backed war against Al-Shabaab is far from over. Reports in recent weeks in the corporate media have made it appear that the Islamic resistance forces were in retreat and suffering massive casualties at the hands of the multi-national units currently operating inside the country.
In Mogadishu, the capital, and Kismayo in the south as well as Baidoa in the central region have experience intense fighting that the western-engineered militaries claim have largely weakened the capacity of the Al-Shabaab movement. Nonetheless, the clashes on March 12 in Baidoa resulted in the reported deaths of 70 soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the wounding of many more.
Within the capital of Mogadishu on March 14, several people were killed in an attack on the presidential palace. Al-Shabaab soon claimed responsibility for the operation saying that 17 people had been killed in the bombing attack.
A statement issued by Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab of Al-Shabaab said “What a victory, inside the so-called presidential palace, more explosions and bombers will follow.” (Reuters, March 14)
The entering of the Ethiopian military once again in Somalia is a key component of efforts to defeat Al-Shabaab through the policy of overwhelming force. Kenyan Defense Forces, which entered Somalia during October 2011, quickly became stalled due to the determined defensive posture of Al-Shabaab and the inclement weather conditions in the region.
Soon enough it was announced that the Kenyan military role in Somalia would be integrated into the project of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM, which has been operating in Somalia since 2007, was a direct response to the failure of an earlier United States-inspired initiative that encouraged the Ethiopian military to intervene in Somalia in late 2006.
This occupation by Ethiopia was met by fierce opposition from the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which at the time was designated by the Bush administration as a threat to U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa.
The intervention by Ethiopia, which lasted from December 2006 to early 2009, prompted large-scale dislocation of the Somalian population. In addition to all the intervention on the ground, the U.S. carried out several bombing operations in Somalia during 2007 under the guise of targeting “Al-Qaida terrorists” bases inside this Horn of Africa nation.
Despite the large-scale Ethiopian intervention and the role of U.S. and also British air power, the invasion and occupation by Addis Ababa was a huge failure. Politically the U.S. was able to split the ICU coalition bringing more moderate elements into the Washington-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
However, the more youthful militant wing of the ICU known as Al-Shabaab rejected the agreement to enter the TFG on the basis that the AMISOM military forces would be allowed to remain in Somalia indefinitely.
AMISOM was initially set up to deploy approximately 8,000 troops from the U.S.-funded regimes in Uganda and Burundi as well other states. Since the latter months of 2011, reinforcements have been dispatched from Djibouti, a neighboring state which harbors a Pentagon and French military base at Camp Lemonier.
Behind the Attacks on Eritrea
On March 15, the Ethiopian military launched attacks against the small neighboring state of Eritrea. This rekindled the long conflict over the independence of Eritrea which had been incorporated into Ethiopia over a period between 1952-1961.
Later in 1974, after the revolution in Ethiopia which ousted Emperor Haile Selassie, Addis Ababa, under the Dergue headed by Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, turned toward the Soviet Union and Cuba and declared the new political dispensation a socialist-oriented.
A U.S. military base was closed in Ethiopia along with the enactment of social reforms including land redistribution. Nonetheless, the war with Eritrea, a former Italian colony and British protectorate, continued.
During the period of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, just several months prior to its break-up, the government and Workers Party of Ethiopia was overthrown by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)-led Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). It was at this time that Eritrea, under the leadership of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), declared its independence from Ethiopia with no apparent opposition from Addis Ababa, then-led by Meles Zenawi’s EPRDF.
However, by 1998 the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea would re-emerge in a protracted military struggle. Between 1998-2000, it has been reported that 70,000 people died in the fighting. An Organization of African Unity (OAU, the predecessor to the African Union) brokered agreement in Algiers resulted in the cessation of hostilities but no peace treaty has been signed between the two states.
Eritrea has said in response to the Ethiopian attack that the military strike is designed to further obscure the fact that Addis Ababa is still occupying its territory around Badme. Eritrea has been accused by the U.S. and Ethiopia of supplying military assistance to Al-Shabaab, a claim Asmara has denied, as well as other anti-Ethiopian regime liberation movements in the Afars region of the country.
Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu noted that “By its own admission, it’s an aggression against the sovereignty of Eritrean territory. The internal crisis in Ethiopia is due to the marginalization and exclusion of minor Ethiopian groups because of the regime’s narrow and backward policy of divide and rule being conducted by the Ethiopian regime.” (VOA, March 15)
Imperialist Aims in the Horn of Africa
It is the objective of U.S. imperialism and its allies to isolate and liquidate all political forces within the Horn of Africa which are operating independently of Washington’s direction. This was the rationale for the urging of Ethiopian intervention into Somalia between 2006-2009 and the latest incursions around Baidoa.
In all likelihood, the recent strikes against Eritrea are designed to intimidate this nation which has not been brought into the regional efforts geared toward subduing Somalia under imperialist control.
Somalia has recently become a potential source of substantial oil for the transnational petroleum firms. Drilling has already begun in the northern breakaway enclave of Puntland.
U.S. drones are in full operation in Somalia resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians inside the country over the last several months. At the same time off the coast in the Gulf of Aden, flotillas of war ships from Washington and the European Union (EU) are patrolling these waterways which are some of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.
Developments in the Horn of Africa must be viewed within the context of the expansion of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and NATO operations on the continent. The increasing supply of oil and strategic minerals from Africa into the U.S. is at the root of these military operations in Somalia.
Fresh from the overthrow of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya, the U.S. and NATO are seeking greater avenues of penetration into Africa. Consequently, anti-war and anti-imperialists forces in the U.S. must oppose these operations because they are only structured to increase the profit margins of the transnational corporations and the banks.
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