Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seriously, Torch the Horn

Al Qaeda is again ready to take parts of Somalia over and turn it into a new sanctuary:

A week of fierce mortar and gun battles in Mogadishu has left the president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, in control of little more than the presidential palace, airport and docks.

More than 135 people have died and 34,000 have fled their homes in the city, leading to warnings from Western security agencies that al-Qaeda could regain a key strategic toehold on the Horn of Africa.

The threat to the government, which assumed office only in December, is spearheaded by the al-Shabaab movement, which is backed by Eritrea and aligned to al-Qaeda. An increasing number of foreign Islamic radicals have joined the battle against Sheikh Sharif's forces, which are backed by 4,300 African Union peacekeepers.

"It is perhaps dangerous to overblow the current threat of al-Qaeda in Somalia, but if the government falls, then it's pretty clear the door is that much more wide open," said a Western diplomat in Nairobi.

The last time we faced this situation, Ethiopia stepped up. Ethiopia withdrew (honestly, they stayed far longer than I thought they would) and probably isn't up to returning.

So it could be up to us. I wonder if Somalia could be the first war theater really initiated by the Obama administration. It would be useful, as I've written before.