The ICU, who are as Toby said, “comprised along clannish lines”, was founded by the leaders of al-Ittihad al-Islamiyya and draw their main support from the clans living in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The ICU could never in the long run, speak for the majority of Somalia who are largely secular Muslims. The Islamist Courts Union (ICU) was on the brink of finishing off the only internationally recognized authority in Somalia, with Baidoa looking to be the TFG’s “Alamo” or last stand.
There have been claims of terrorist camps having been set up inside the ICU controlled areas of Somalia, whether they number around seventeen or not is a matter for debate, but due to the utopian tendencies of religious Islamist extremism, the gradual increase and expansion of these camps would only have become a matter of time.
The Islamists had arguably brought some form of “stability” that was indeed, tenuous at best, and destructive at worst for the future. A mostly secular Somalia wouldn’t have appreciated the beheadings, amputations, ban on “khat chewing”(traditional plant stimulant) and other severely restrictive measures that Sharia brings with it for any extended period, no matter how (arguably) stable Somalia was to become after the total defeat of the TFG.
The degree of influence from al-Qaida leaders inside Somalia can be seen in the safe haven given to the guilty operatives who were involved in the embassy bombings, the already present foreign fighters from around the world, as well as in their call-to-arms through al-Qaida’s sencond in command, Zawahiri, to the rest of the Islamist world. If they had been denying their connection to al-Qaida, they most certainly showed their hand in their distress call for Islamist help.
This was of course not the desired scenario that the ICU had hoped for, who rather saw themselves as being in charge of the whole state, and not being on the run with the combined forces of the TFG and Ethiopia behind them, and US warships off the coast sending in air support when needed. The TFG’s “melting away” as the Baatists have done in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, presents a worrying dilemma when taking into account the problems facing the democratically elected governments of those two states.
What will define the TFG’s credibility more than anything else, will be the return of true stability to the country through the governance of a Somali central government, and not the war lords, who hopefully have finally “woken up and smelled the coffee”. That due to their own interfighting, gave rise to the draconian rule of the ICU and the return of Ethiopian troops to Somalia. While the dreaded insurgency is a real factor to contend with, much of its ability to become an effective fighting force will greatly depend upon how many men are left standing after the current offensive is over.
What is need now more than ever, is for the French contingent based in Djibouti to be called in by the UN to help police the area, who are the best suited to provide the needed fire power and logistical assistance if called upon. There also needs to be a major influx of monetary funding to help prop up the TFG in order for its government to maintain the daily running of it affairs, as well as being able to provide basic services to the Somali people.
One thing I am certain of, it’s better to see an Islamist entity on the run while looking over its shoulder, than for an Islamist entity running the day to day affairs from a county’s capital. That’s the lesson learned from 9/11, and the US has once again shown that there is no such thing anymore as an Islamist “safe haven, at least not for long. *L* KGS
Update: Somali war lords plan to join the TFG government. The move sends a message to the international community that they are serious about ending their factional sniping on each other, and could be a confidence building measure for the citizens of Mogadishu that the TFG will indeed bring the kind of stability they truly want and desperately need. More here.