Thursday, December 28, 2006

Effective ceasefire

In sequence, earlier today the Times reported that

Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies were closing on Mogadishu last night after seizing several strategic towns from the Islamic militias who once threatened to overrun the country
Two bullet points headed this piece:
# Troops prepare for Mogadishu siege
# Rebel leader calls for new peace talks
I'll bet he did.

Preparing for a siege, though. Another Stalingrad?

Somali government forces, supported by Ethiopian soldiers, entered Mogadishu unopposed today after the leaders of Islamist militias that have controlled the city since June fled last night.
Undaunted, the Times then ran a piece of analysis:
Rob Crilly, who has been covering the conflict in Somalia for The Times, says the Government's swift defeat of the Islamist militias, with the help of Ethiopia, suggests nothing more than a return to the political vacuum that has endangered the country for 15 years:
So, the story so far:

  • Government troops with their Ethiopian allies advance on Mogadishu

  • It's going to be a seige

  • Ah... it wasn't

  • But! But! It hasn't achieved anything

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council had sprung into decisive action:
For two late afternoons and early evenings the panel of 15-failed to reach an accord on how handle the situation, or even make a statement about it.

It was left to outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appeal Wednesday night to Somalia's neighbors to stay out of the spiraling violence in the country
"It is essential that neighboring governments stay out of this," said Annan, who had spoken to Ethiopia's president on the issue.
"The council is in genuine debate," he said...
Luckily, Ethiopia has adjourned the debate for the moment:
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi vowed not to give up the fight until extremists and foreign fighters supporting the Islamic movement had been crushed.

"We need to pursue them to make sure that they do not establish themselves again and destabilize Somalia and the region," he said, predicting it would take a few weeks longer.

Speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, he added that between 2,000 and 3,000 Islamic militia had been killed and 4,000 to 5,000 wounded.

Ethiopia suffered a few hundred casualties, Meles told reporters.

The Islamic forces, who had threatened to defend the capital to the last man, retreated toward the southern port of Kismayo.

Islamic fighters have gone door to door in Kismayo, recruiting children as young as 12 to make a last stand on behalf of the Islamic courts, according to a confidential U.N. situation report, citing the families of boys taken to the front line town of Jilib, 110 kilometers (65 miles) north of Kismayo.

Residents told the AP that Islamic leader Hassan Dahir Aweys had arrived in Jilib with hundreds of fighters aboard 45 pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

The Islamic movement took Mogadishu six months ago and then advanced across most of southern Somalia, often without fighting. Then Ethiopian troops and fighter aircraft went on the attack in support of the government last week.
But for how long? How long until international pressure forces them to pull back and allow the Islamists to regroup, re-arm and resume the hostilities? The correct course of action for the international community would, of course, be to encourage the pursuit of the Islamists by Ethiopians so that the matter is brought to a speedy conclusion. This is the way of lesser bloodshed, and it is the way to develop a base of stability.

But, as happened when the Israeli military pursued Hezbollah terrorists into Lebanon earlier this year, pressure will be brought - is already being brought by Annan - to bring hostilities to a temporary close. This is the way to cultivate violence, to let it fester and recur for decades, and the U.N. has honed it to an art form.

There is only one really effective sort of ceasefire. It's called victory.

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