Lesson from Somalia

When the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia it was like a repeat of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan.  They did the usual things, like banning football and enforcing Sharia, but soon it became obvious that Somalia was becoming a terrorist state.

These men have seized power in a country that contains 17 operational terrorist training camps, as described in a confidential report prepared by the nongovernmental group Partners International Foundation in 2002. The claim in this report has been confirmed by a military intelligence source. Today, hundreds of terrorists from Afghan istan, Chechnya, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Arabian peninsula are said to be flocking to Somalia to train in or staff these camps. According to a military intelligence source, the camps provide training in the use of improvised explosive devices to counter Ethiopian vehicles.[A New Terrorist Haven]

Also came reports that al Qaeda was operating in Somalia and unlike 1993 the United States did not run away from fighting. In 1993 the American forces were sent into Mogadishu to capture two lieutenants of a Somali warlord. The raid was successful, but two Black Hawks were downed by the Somali militia and a battle at close range between the Americans and the Somali militia erupted.

During the battle 19 American soldiers were killed and following this incident President Clinton withdrew the American troops. In an interview  Osama bin Laden said that the American withdrawal from Somalia had emboldened al Qaeda.

This time it was not going to be so. For such terrorists to be nipped in the bud you need active partnership from the neighboring countries and first Ethiopia struck decisively using jets and Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships. The al Qaeda led Islamic State of Iraq asked Muslims around the world to support the terrorists, but then the International Courts were losing control over towns line Dinsor.

Kenya meanwhile closed the border and US Special forces based in Djibouti started chasing three top al Qaeda suspects believed to be in Somalia. The support Americans got from the Transitional Federal Government prompted the Wall Street Journal to remark in an editorial, “If only we received the same level of candid cooperation from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf”.

In the 1993 battle in Mogadishu, the American forces were saved by the arrival of the 10th Mountain Division of Pakistan and Malaysian UN troops. According to Musharraf the work done by the Pakistanis were not given proper credit in the movie Black Hawk Down and he ranted about it in his Fantasy/Fiction autobiography.

When it is pointed out that his country is the source of terrorism his rants sound like a broken tape. The stock reply is that no other country has done more in the war like Pakistan. While the State Department runs on Truthiness,  President Karzai, the NATO forces and the American Intelligence agencies know the real truth. It is the same truth Indians have been shouting from the roof tops for ages.

al-Qaeda has re-established its global headquarters in Pakistan and the terrorist group has established a secure hideout in Pakistan. In written testimony to the SIC, Negroponte also said “Pakistan is our partner in the war on terror and has captured several Al Qaeda leaders. However, it is also a major source of Islamic extremism.” According to him, “they are cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships that radiate outward from their leaders’ secure hide-out in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.”[Oxymoronic Perception: “Pakistan is genuine in fighting terror,” & “Al Qaeda active, strong in Pakistani hideout”]

From acts like ceding North Waziristan to Taliban and al Qaeda to the release of 2500 prisoners linked to Taliban while taking aid from America, Musharraf has been playing both sides of the game. He has demonstrated many times that the destruction of al Qaeda is not in his interests as it helps him keep pressure on his two enemies, Afghanistan and India. He is not like the Transitional Federal Government  of Somalia and the editorial writers of WSJ must be very juvenile to think otherwise.

For countries like India, plagued with terrorism, both internal and external, the Somalian lesson tells us that decisive action has to be taken at the onset itself. The American withdrawal in 1993 gave courage to al Qaeda to try  bigger acts of terrorism. We have been proudly following the 1993 model and suffering the consequences. Instead we should make clear to terrorists that if you start a war, we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.

( Crossposted at INI Signal)

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