May 28, 2010

Somalia Peers Over Tipping Point

Like a dying patient Somalia may collapse at any moment without notice. Having captured the areas north of the presidential palace, al Shabaab declared their next target is to seize the palace itself.

"We have ousted the government from the north of Mogadishu... and now our next step is to capture the palace," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, told reporters. “There is no one between us and the Christians (African Union peacekeepers - AMISOM), the so-called police who used to defend the AMISOM are now nowhere to be seen."

Though easy to cast aside al-Shabab’s bluster, it is very real. Somalia’s offensive was a dud and its government is mired its own crisis. Now al-Shabab is firing mortars on the palace. But the most ominous sign came from a spokesman for the peacekeeping force who laughed off Rage’s statement.

"We wish them success for their dreams," Barigye Ba-Hoku told Reuters, in what seemed at first to be confidence. Until Ba-Hoku tells al-Shabab, “Their actions are illegal and they amount to a coup.”

As if al-Shabab doesn’t realize it’s toppling the government - as if law exists in Somalia. Ba-Hoku’s choice of language makes him sound like al-Shabab has already toppled Mogadishu. It appears inevitable that the palace will actually fall some day in the not-so-distant future.

The situation is so bad that reinforcements from Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea, a government-aligned militia, have been flown in.

The events in Somalia are one more example of the danger in General Petraeus’s directive. No team of US Special Forces can help the situation, pinpointing targets has no value. The only good they can do is re-con landing points for a brigade-size rapid task force.

We’ve been wondering for months when Mogadishu will fall to al-Shabab. Somalis trained in foreign states by the EU will bring no salvation, meaning it’s time to legitimately speculate whether America enters the fray to protect the palace. No other option remains except the military so close to the tipping point, and yet it may be too late anyway.

This is the strategy highlighted by Clinton and Brennan.

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