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You should thank Ethiopia, no Islamic State in the Horn of Africa

by Adem Ibrahim
Tigrai Onlne - September 1, 2014

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You should thank Ethiopia, no Islamic State in the Horn of Africa
ISIS Jihadists slaughtering 250 Iraqi soldiers in a half an hour. If the Ethiopian army didn't destroy Al-Shabab, this would have happen in Ethiopia and the neighboring countries.

Extremists and terrorists have been causing shock and awe in different parts of the world in the past months. It is not the "usual" type of news: Such as, suicide bombings, beheadings, forced conversions, kidnappings, displacements, and the like.

It is a major escalation of the war on terrorism that is believed to provide a new inspiration to international jihadist movements and "the most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11".

At the end of June, the group called "the Islamic State of Iraq and the Al-Sham", which controls vast areas of Iraq and Syria, announced the formation of the Caliphate - a state governed under strict Islamic law that has long been a goal of many jihadists.

The Caliphate and the group are now named Islamic State and the leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is declared as its Caliph -"khalifah Ibrahim" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

In its announcement, the group said:

"The Islamic State studied this matter after the Islamic State - by Allah's grace - gained the essentials necessary for khilāfah, which the Muslims are sinful for if they do not try to establish. In light of the fact that the Islamic State has no shar'ī (legal) constraint or excuse that can justify delaying or neglecting the establishment of the khilāfah

We clarify to the Muslims that with this declaration of khilāfah, it is incumbent upon all Muslims to pledge allegiance to the khalīfah Ibrāhīm and support him (may Allah preserve him). The legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilāfah's authority and arrival of its troops to their areas."

The matter was described by one expert as:

“[the] announcement that it has restored the caliphate is likely the most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11.”

 “Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of [the ISIL], largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality.”

“The impact of this announcement will be global, as Al-Qaeda affiliates and independent jihadist groups must now definitively choose to support and join the Islamic State or to oppose it.”

As anticipated, a few weeks later, the Yemen-based terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced ‘solidarity’.

The Yemen-based terror group said:

“We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” the newspaper quoted the AQAP statement as saying.

“We stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers.”

The development was considered as a deadly combination and joining forces of the world’s two most dangerous Islamic terror groups.

Now, a third one is joining them: The Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram has been fighting to create an Islamic state.

The group has received training and funds from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and is often in the news for its acts of bombings, assassinations and abductions.

Boko Haram killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, while 650,000 people fled the conflict zone by August 2014. In this year alone, at least 2,000 died and 200,000 displaced.

Now, this week, the leader Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he congratulated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and declared the creation of an 'Islamic state' in northern Nigeria.

Among these series of chilling news, one name is missing Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate jihadist group based in Somalia. It is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

Back in 2006 and earlier, the terror group was strong enough to capture the capital and threaten the government that fled to another city, Baidoa and literally hundreds of moderates, especially within the Hawiye clan, were assassinated and murdered in Mogadishu, including many professionals, civilians, former soldiers and police.

However, thanks to the decisive role Ethiopia played both in direct military intervention as well as mobilizing regional and international efforts, the group has retreated from the major cities and is limited to some rural regions where it imposes strict forms of Sharia law.

In fact, as several experts concur, Al-Shabaab no longer have the capacity to control large areas and its activities are limited to sporadic suicide bombings.

It may declare allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and in Nigeria. However, it has no realistic capability to create an Islamic State in the Horn of Africa.

That was the result of Ethiopia's military intervention in Somalia and her far-sighted, consistent and assertive foreign policy. Those are the most important elements that are lacking in other regions where terror groups that were not crushed at the early ages are now escalating their activities.

Sadly, Ethiopia's exemplary role has not gained the praise it deserves within some media and pundits. For example, last month Professor Abdi Ismail Samatar, a Somali intellectual who run and failed candidate in the last Somali presidential election, claimed on Al-Jazeera that:

"ICU's military success and its popularity among most Somalis immediately attracted the attention of the West, particularly the US, and their Ethiopian allies. Plans were laid out, using Ethiopia as a proxy, to crush the ICU. Unfortunately the ICU blindly fell into the strategic traps set for them. Consequently, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and drove the ICU into the bush."

Similarly, this month, an article on New Africa Magazine wrote a brazen misrepresentation of Ethiopia's military intervention in Somalia as follows:

"An elaborate plan was, therefore, put in place by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which led to an incursion into Somalia coordinated by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF)......

Thanks to the American support, the Ethiopian invasion was successful and a new Transitional Federal Government was put in place in Mogadishu."

The truth, however, is that the government of Ethiopia took the decision to intervene in Somalia in 2006 solely in light of national interest sand financed it from the national treasury.

That was unequivocally confirmed in the diplomatic telegrams about the confidential meetings between Ethiopian and United States government officials that had been published by Wikileaks in 2012.

The secret telegrams that were written by from US Embassy Addis Ababa provided minutes of the meetings that were held between top level government officials of Ethiopia and U.S in 2006 regarding Ethiopia’s planned intervention in Somalia.

Here are a few of the revealing quotes from the cables:

1/ A telegram on Oct. 12, 2006 presents a meeting held between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Theresa Whelan – also attended by Defence Chief of Staff Samora Yenus and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu and DATT (Embassy Defence Attaché) Colonel Zedler, OSD Representative Lt. Colonel Atallah and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

The cable mentions a request made by the then Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi to the Dep. Secretary of Defence and the view of the US.  

“Meles asked that the US express dismay but not condemn Ethiopia if the UNSC does not approve the IGAD mission and Ethiopian forces deploy to Beledwyne, since Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defense.

In order to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC in Beledwyne, the international community will need to take action that will allow the TFG – as well as Puntland and Somaliland — to survive and Ethiopia to be secure from infiltration by insurgents.”

The cable shows Meles telling them what he told us when he said “Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defence’. The desire of the US looks not of a boss giving homework but “to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC” and “to prevent an Ethiopian counter attack and possibly a wider war”.

2/ A telegram on Oct. 14, 2006 reveals Meles was wary of the reaction of the international community, rather than doing the homework of a superpower. The meeting was with Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Rear Admiral Richard Hunt, US Business Executives for National Security (BENS) President and CEO General Charles Boyd, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), and Bennett McCutcheon Michele Huges from Joint Forces Command.

"Absent of an international solution, Meles explained that Ethiopia is prepared to do battle with the UIC in Somalia. Meles indicated that before making a final decision he will wait for the November United Nation’s Security Council meeting where he hopes a favorable decision will be made to lift the arms embargo and deploy the IGAD/Ugandan battalion."

The cable shows Meles hoped for an “international solution” than Ethiopia intervene and was waiting for the Security Council meeting “before making a final decision”. This statement, if not true, would have been nonsense to the officials that know who makes the decision.

3/ A Nov. 02, 2006 cable shows that PM Meles has told US officials that Ethiopia would be grateful if the US would help locate bases of al-Shebaab, an extremist element of UIC/CIC. He also asked them to lobby the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions.

The meeting was attended by PM Meles Zenawi and Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA) Admiral Rick Hunt, DATT [Defence Attaché] Don Zedler and Charge and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

[PM Meles said] if the USG can assist in any way – specifically intelligence – to counter the growing al Shebab terrorist influence, Ethiopia would be grateful. Meles also asked if the USG would discretely talk with the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions. If they condemn Ethiopia, Meles said, "It will stiffen the Jihadists."

When Charge asked why the CIC would attack Baidoa if it meant an Ethiopia/TFG response, Meles said that the CIC wants to provoke Ethiopia into a war in Somalia so the EU and the US will pressure Ethiopia to stop. But some in the CIC are not so sure that the US and EU will make that recommendation, and others doubt Ethiopia will bend to pressure. In response to the Charge’s urging, Meles reiterated his previous statements that Ethiopia wants to wait for the UNSC to lift the embargo on the TFG and authorize IGASOM.

The cable reads like Meles is the one asking for the US to   “assist in any way” and not to be condemned, which he would not need to ask if he was doing the US’s job.

It is certain, however, no US financial assistance was provided to the Ethiopian military operation, as revealed in other cables

4/ A telegram on Nov. 15, 2006 provides a summary of the threats gathering in Somalia against Ethiopia and the region at the time. The cable written by the departing Charge d’Affaires, Vicki Huddleston to State Department Asst. Secretary, Jenday Frazer and the newly appointed Ambassador Donald Yamamoto.

"If UIC successful in defeating the TFG at Baidoa, Aweys’ forces will gain momentum; already daily flights of men and equipment are pouring into Mogadishu for an attack on Puntland and Somaliland in the expectation that this will unite Somalia. At the same time, insurgents from Oromiya (the OLF) and the Ogaden (the ONLF), backed by Eritrea, will move east into Ethiopia.

The ONLF intends to break off Ethiopia’s Somali region, uniting it with a Greater Somali state. The OLF will either ensure that there is regime change in Addis Ababa or separate Oromiya from Ethiopia. In the end, Ethiopia’s enemies — most notably Eritrea — would be successful in breaking up Ethiopia and ousting Meles."

5/ A telegram on Dec. 04, 2006 presents a meeting between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Senator Russ Feingold, who chairs the Armed Committee of the Senate, hinting that the US government is not enthusiastic about Ethiopia’s plan to intervene.

"[Sen. Feingold] expressed hope that the armed conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia could be averted, and remarked that he would be surprised the USG were enthusiastic about an Ethiopian military intervention. At the same time, Feingold acknowledged that the GOE was in a difficult situation which he now understood better. 

Meles replied that no one, including the GOE, was enthusiastic about conflict, but sometimes circumstances made military action the only option."

6/ A telegram on Nov. 29, 2007 indicates that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. The meeting was attended by Senator James Inhofe, a full member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Robert Aderholt, Dan Boren, Tim Walberg, and Mike McIntyre as well as Congressional staff members, and Ambassador Yamamato.

"The Prime Minister emphasized that it was the fight against terrorism that forced Ethiopia to take military action in Somalia against the Council of Islamic Courts and affiliated militias last year and he noted that it was a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests.

Meles emphasized that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. for that endeavor, but noted that Ethiopia derived adequate satisfaction from the strong U.S.-Ethiopia cooperation since then as it was evident to Ethiopia that the U.S. "was in the same trench" as Ethiopia. Ethiopia is fighting terrorism in its own interests, he stated, "we will do it with or without the U.S., but we prefer to do it with you."

Meles told them the war was “a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests” and that “Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S.” and no one objected his statement.

6/ A telegram on Jan. 04, 2008 presents a discussion between Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) Chief of Staff Gen. Samora Yenus’s and US Ambassador Donald Yamamato.

"Gen. Samora responded aggressively, in tone if not demeanor, that the  "U.S. did not support a single bullet for our operations in Somalia." Samora reiterated the $3 million expense for five U.S. civilian contract trainers and argued that $2.5 million in C-130 spare parts "is nothing" in comparison to the sacrifices made by Ethiopian troops in Somalia without U.S. financial support.

Gen. Samora said that Ethiopia had trained 680 Somali Transitional Federal Government troops without U.S. financial support and had recently brought another 1,000 Somali troops for training. "It would be good if the U.S. helped with this," Samora lamented, "but not critical…We can do it ourselves; like everything else we do."

This cable seals the issue as Gen. Samora tells the US ambassador that “the U.S. did not provide a single bullet” and about the sacrifices made by Ethiopian troops in Somalia “without U.S. financial support”.

He told the ambassador the usual confident speech we hear from our government- “We can do it ourselves; like everything else we do”.

Indeed, Ethiopia’s leading role in thwarting Al-Shabaab's ambitions of an Islamic State is consistent with her aims and determinations in the region. Indeed, Ethiopia has become a very real force for peace in the Horn of Africa region. Ethiopia has played a major role in supporting IGAD’s peace and security activities, including the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan and the peace process for Somalia.

Enjoying the trust of both Khartoum and Juba, it has been brokering efforts to resolve the disputes between South Sudan and Sudan. It has sent troops to the joint UN – AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) to help maintain peace and stability in that troubled region. It has also deployed 4000 troops in Abyei to maintain peace and stability for the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

Ethiopia's role as a regional stabilizer is an outcome of her pragmatic and scientific Ethiopia's foreign policy, which states:

"Our policy in the Horn of Africa should, like all our other policies, be free of different sentiments and proceed from a sober analysis of the situation, keeping in constant view our development and democracy agenda.  It should understand that the success of our development and democratization has a positive contribution not only to Ethiopia but to all neighbors as well; and that a policy that is free of arrogance and greed would contribute to changing the entire region.  These are the premises on which our policy is based. 

On the other hand, although our neighbors have little direct influence on our economic development, their role could grow in time, and as they would then have a bigger capacity to adversely affect our peace, our policy should focus on developing the culture of dealing with contradictions through discussion and negotiations while reducing our vulnerability to danger and to ad-dress security threats appropriately."

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