The Fall of Islamist Somalia

It’s been tough over the past couple of days not to stand up and do a little dance of joy over Ethiopia’s so far masterful efforts in Somalia. Ethiopia very correctly recognized that the United Islamic Courts, the al Qaeda-backed Islamist movement that took control of Mogadishu and most of Somalia this past summer, represents a threat. So Ethiopia acted. And now Bill Roggio reports that Mogadishu has fallen to the Ethiopian and transitional Somali government forces.

Nine days after the onset of open warfare between the al-Qaeda backed Islamic Courts and the Ethiopian backed Transitional Federal Government, the Islamic Courts have surrendered. “After having crucial and urgent meeting tonight in the capital, the leaders of executive and Shura councils of Islamic Courts Union and deputy leader of executive council of ICU, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and Sheik Abdirahman Janaqow resigned and issued a joint press statement over the current situation in Somalia particular in Mogadishu,” reports SomaliNet.

There should be no allowance for any cease-fire talks until the Islamists are well and truly crushed. Keep the UN and the Arab League as far from this fight as possible until it’s truly finished. The Ethiopians and the transitional Somali government forces, fighting together against the Islamists in spite of a history of war between Ethiopia and Somalia, should not make the same mistake Israel and the US have made in Lebanon and Iraq and Afghanistan. They should win the fight outright and dictate terms to the surviving Islamists. Foreign fighters should either be imprisoned and tried for their crimes or, well, imprisoned and tried for their crimes. Anything less, and the Islamists will go to ground and come back with an insurgency in a few months or a year.

In fact, there’s nothing to guarantee that that won’t happen even if the Islamists accept their position and surrender outright. But a real and clear defeat for them and the demonstration of Ethiopia’s resolve will make an insurgency more difficult to mount and might dry up support from Iran and elsewhere. It might also put a dent in the plans fellow Islamists are laying for Israel in Gaza, to see their brethren rejected and defeated on the ground of Black Hawk Down.

Supposing Ethiopia and the TNG go on to win this fight, there’s a lesson in it for us and the rest of the West: Once you decide to fight, fight to win and don’t stop until you have. That’s not a military lesson, but a political one.

Now, to be fair, Ethiopian forces have faced much less impressive and experienced jihadis in Somalia than either the Israelis faced in southern Lebanon or than we have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the jihadis in Somalia were reportedly teenage boys pushed to the front lines after the Islamists closed their schools. But that might be balanced by the fact that the US and Israel field far more capable militaries than that of the Ethiopians. What we and the Israelis seem to lack right now, and which the Ethiopians apparently have, is the political will to win without worrying overmuch what the so-called internation community thinks. There is no Ethiopian equivalent of Joe Biden wagging a finger at the Ethiopian leadership over every little thing that isn’t perfect, and there is no Ethiopian equivalent of John Kerry comparing a days-old fight to Vietnam. And aren’t the Ethiopians lucky.