08 June 2006
''Intelligence Brief: I.C.U. Expels Warlords from Mogadishu''
fter intense fighting between the Islamic Court Union (I.C.U.) and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (A.R.P.C.T.) during the past month in Mogadishu, reports from Somalia claim that the capital has largely fallen to the I.C.U.
Militia part of the A.R.P.C.T., an umbrella group of warlords and businessmen who have dominated the city since Somalia lost an effective central government in 1991, have been pushed from their positions by I.C.U. fighters. On June 4, the warlords lost the strategic city of Balad, which is 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the capital; Balad had acted as a supply town for the warlords. With the warlords fleeing north to the city of Jowhar, which is controlled by Mohamed Omar Habeb Dheere -- one of the A.R.P.C.T.'s main leaders -- it is expected that Somalia will face increased instability in the months ahead.
The success of the I.C.U. in Mogadishu has caused concern in Washington. The United States fears that increased control by the I.C.U. will allow its Islamist leaders to shelter al-Qaeda militants and other religious fighters who ascribe to al-Qaeda's ideology of attacking the United States and its allies.
While Washington has publicly announced that it does not support the recent power gains by the I.C.U., it is not clear what current U.S. policy is in Somalia. There are accusations that the United States has been supporting the warlords who make up the A.R.P.C.T., but this has not been confirmed publicly (although some journalists claim U.S. officials have confirmed their financial support to the A.R.P.C.T. privately).
Despite the threat that the I.C.U. may pose to U.S. interests, it is not likely that they will be able to gain control over the majority of the country. As explained in a recent in-depth PINR assessment on the stability situation in Somalia, "At present, Somalia is not faced with the immediate prospect of an Islamist takeover; the country's politics are far too fragmented for that -- the web is too segmented, dense, knotted and crisscrossed." [See: "Somalia's Tangled Web Becomes Contorted"]
For now, the A.R.P.C.T. warlords have retrenched to their stronghold of Jowhar, 90 kilometers north of Mogadishu. Jowhar acts as the destination point for military supplies that are funneled to the warlords from Ethiopia. Analysts are waiting to see whether the warlords will attempt to regroup and launch a counter-attack on Mogadishu. Coordinated tactical movements remain difficult for the warlords since the A.R.P.C.T. umbrella group suffers from in-fighting and disagreements. Also, according to a June 6 AFP report, some 500 I.C.U. fighters, with around 100 machine-gun mounted pick-up trucks, are poised just 10 kilometers (six miles) south of Jowhar in Kalinov village -- they are apparently waiting orders to move on Jowhar.
Nevertheless, the I.C.U. has not taken complete control of Mogadishu. In the northern part of the city, the Abgal clan, a sub-clan that is part of the Hawiye tribe (the dominant tribe in Mogadishu), still retains control and has rejected obedience to the I.C.U. and the Shari'a legal system that the Islamic courts wish to impose.
Somalia Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who is based in Baidoa -- a neutral town 240 kilometers (150 miles) northwest of Mogadishu and the temporary capital of the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) -- recognizes the power of the Islamic militias and has reportedly tried to open a line of dialogue with the I.C.U. Gedi also apparently sacked four warlord ministers on June 5 who were involved in the fighting against the I.C.U. in Mogadishu.
The T.F.G., however, has little power outside of international recognition, and the transitional government is largely ignored by the I.C.U. and the warlords. As PINR explained in May 2006, "As the T.F.G. struggled to organize itself, it was bypassed by two new players -- the I.C.U. and the A.R.P.C.T. -- both of which oppose the T.F.G. and confront each other in a struggle for control over Mogadishu that has drawn into it actors from outside the city." The weakness of the T.F.G. is why outside powers opposed to the I.C.U. -- such as the United States -- may ignore the T.F.G. and throw increased financial and/or military support behind the warlord factions. [See: "Somalia's Tangled Web Becomes Contorted"]
Expect the situation in Somalia to become increasingly tense. The United States has made clear that it sees victory by the I.C.U. as a threat to U.S. interests. According to a statement made by U.S. President George W. Bush on June 6, a primary objective of the United States is "to make sure that Somalia does not become an al-Qaeda safe haven, doesn't become a place from which terrorists plot and plan, so we're watching very carefully developments there."
Without a boost in support from the United States or another external power, the warlords will likely remain on the defensive and possibly get pushed out of Jowhar. At this stage, it appears Washington is unsure of how to proceed in this conflict, stuck between whether to provide further support to the largely discredited warlords, or to open up a dialogue with the Islamic militias. If it chooses the former, violent clashes will resume as the two umbrella groups fight for control.
The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.