Conservative Liberal

FDR would have been a Republican today.

How to fight the Islamists: a lesson for us all

A couple of days ago I followed a link, either from Hot Air or from LGF, and found this article:

Why Ethiopia is Winning in Somalia
The keys to a surprising military campaign.

by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross for Pajamas Media
Edited by Richard Miniter

The startlingly rapid retreat of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a Taliban-like group linked to Osama bin Laden, surprised military intelligence officers who less than a week ago were predicting a total route of Somalia’s secular transitional federal government.

The intensity of air strikes by Ethiopia, which has long been allied with the transitional government, has helped turn the tide. Ethiopia’s ground forces, already based in Somalia, have also played a critical role.

Ethiopia’s success was not inevitable: This past week an American military intelligence officer told Pajamas Media that the ICU “will overrun Baidoa,” where the transitional government has been headquartered, and that the only question was when Baidoa would fall. Pajamas Media spoke with the same officer yesterday. He is now optimistic about the Ethiopians’ chances, with one caveat: “Unless you kill the ICU, it will come back. My worry is they’ll drive the ICU out and it will come back in a couple of months.”

There may be lessons for the United States in Ethiopia’s success. Abdiweli Ali, an assistant professor at Niagara University who is in contact with transitional government military commanders on the ground, says that Ethiopia has less concern than the U.S. about civilian casualties. There is no reliable estimate of civilian deaths, but the number is believed to be in the hundreds. “We’re fighting wars with one hand tied behind our backs,” Professor Ali says. “In Iraq we’re trying to be nice, thinking we’ll give candy to people on the streets and they’ll love us. But people will understand later on if you just win now and provide them with security.”

A second lesson relates to the media. The Ethiopian government is generally less sensitive to media criticism than the U.S. government—and is likely to encounter far less criticism in the first place, since the press traditionally gives short shrift to coverage of Africa.

The American intelligence officer who earlier predicted the transitional government’s defeat tells Pajamas Media that there are two major reasons why both he and the ICU underestimated the Ethiopian military.

First, Ethiopia’s air power was decisive. Over the weekend, Ethiopian jets attacked several airports used by the ICU, and struck recruiting centers and other strategic targets in ICU-run towns. Professor Ali reports that the ICU’s shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons are unable to hit Ethiopia’s aircraft at high altitudes. While the ICU may have some surface-to-air missiles, these devices would be quite old—and complex Soviet weaponry tends to degrade.

But even more important than the fighter jets, the intelligence officer said, is Ethiopia’s use of Mi-24 Hind helicopter gun ships that can target the ICU’s ground forces. While the ICU might use rocket-propelled grenades against helicopters, as we saw in the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident, thus far the ICU claims to have shot down a single Ethiopian helicopter.

Second, the military intelligence officer said that he underestimated Ethiopia’s willingness to commit to the fight against the ICU. “This campaign is far more far-sighted than we expected,” he said. “They didn’t just do this on the fly; they had to have been planning this for several weeks. This is a major commitment.”

So, there you have it, folks. Do read the whole thing. But the explanation for the Ethiopian success basically amounts to one thing: in order to win you have to fight with all you’ve got and not to be shy about it.

Advertisements

December 29, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: