StrategyPage.com has the sobering news that Ethiopian troops who have been propping up the Transitional National Government in Somalia are abandoning a key city to the rebels:
Ethiopian troops have left Baidoa, and Islamic radical gunmen have begun closing in on the town as a result. Baidoa is where the Transitional National Government, or TNG, is based. While some factions of the Islamic radicals are willing to work with the TNG, the more radical factions (particularly the Shabab) are pushing for the establishment of a religious dictatorship and an alliance with similar radical groups like al Qaeda.
The international community is desperately hoping that some kind of miracle will occur in Somalia, and that a new government will magically appear, enforce law and order, and put the pirates out of business. More realistically, everyone expects the piracy to go on until the U.S., or someone else capable of the job, can be convinced to go ashore in Somalia and shut down the pirate bases. That's the only way to stop pirates, by going to where they live and capturing, killing or intimidating them. This is an unpopular fact, and world governments and media have been playing it down because, in the case of Somalia, the implications are so very unpleasant.
The Islamic radicals have the upper hand due to better organization and more brutal suppression of the people:
Meanwhile, the better organized, and motivated, Islamic radicals take control of more towns. These militias are only a minority of the armed groups that exist throughout the country. The non-religious warlords (mainly the Transitional National Government, or TNG) are unable to unite sufficiently to suppress the religious groups (the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, or ARS, which is the successor to the Islamic Courts Union, or ICU). Kenya and Ethiopia find their borders crossed more frequently by Somali raiders (something which has been going on for centuries), and are seeking Western nations that will help contain Somali aggression. So far, the only people seriously listening are those with counter-terrorism forces (mainly American, British and French) in Djibouti (Somalia's neighbor in the north.) But this force of commandos keeps its operations very secret. Apparently, this Djibouti based force monitors what goes on in Somalia, and occasionally intervenes to kill key al Qaeda operatives. There are more al Qaeda showing up in Somalia, and apparently they are leading a terror campaign against relatively peaceful warlords controlling most of northern Somalia (Puntland and Somaliland).
Ethiopia wants out of Somalia. The war is costing them a fortune and they are making zero headway in establishing any kind of order.
Ethiopia says it will pull its troops out of Somalia by the end of the year, whether or not the UN or AU (African Union) get enough troops in to replace them. The Ethiopians, like so many others in the region, and the world, are fed up with trying to cope with the political/economic/social mess inside Somalia. What the Ethiopians will probably do is pull their troops back to bases just across the border in their Ogaden province, and continue to send in raiding parties when (not if) Somali factions come raiding. Ethiopia sent troops to Mogadishu two years ago at the behest of the United States, to drive out Islamic radicals (the Islamic Courts Union). The Ethiopians were told that the UN and AU would organize a force of 8,000 peacekeepers to relief the Ethiopian troops. But that never happened, and only 3,400 of the peacekeepers have arrived, and they have not done much peacekeeping.
Anyone foolish enough to get caught up militarily in that tragedy will be getting shot at from at least 3 different factions and probably a half dozen other minor groups attached to local warlords. Even foreign terrorists are having a difficult time:
The newly arrived terrorists are finding that Somalia is a very hostile environment. Over a third of the population faces starvation, and most Somalis depend, in whole or part, on food aid brought in by foreign aid groups. But many warlords make money by extorting or stealing from the foreign aid organizations. As a result, no matter how much food is brought in, some Somalis are not getting enough to prevent starvation deaths. Again, no foreign country is willing to go in and deal with this situation. That's because it's recognized that it would take a colonial type government to bring peace to Somalia, as most Somalis have shown, over the last two decades, that they cannot govern themselves. Since colonialism is very politically incorrect, the situation will have to get a lot worse before the world community will do anything decisive to shut down the horror show that has developed in Somalia.
Somalia requires a united effort by the world with the realization that only by sending hundreds of thousands of troops willing to stay for a couple of decades will Somalia ever see anything that anyone could call a working government.
Fat chance of that happening anytime soon.