Source: The Washington Post
The departure of the last Ethiopian tanks from Somalia's capital is ushering in a new phase of conflict in a nation known for clan warfare: a battle for power among militias flying Islamist banners.
In some ways, the situation in Somalia, where people have long practiced a moderate and mostly apolitical form of Islam, has circled back to where it was when the Ethiopians invaded two years ago. The U.S.-supported operation was intended to oust a popular movement of moderate and radical Islamists that had taken over the capital and that the United States accused of having ties to al-Qaeda.
But the operation drove the more radical Islamist fighters, known as al-Shabab, into a brutal insurgency against the Ethiopian occupiers and the secular, transitional government their invasion installed. After the deaths of at least 10,000 people and the displacement of 1 million, Ethiopia and the United States are now supporting a political compromise that stands to return to power some of the same moderate Islamist leaders they originally ousted.
Those leaders, in turn, face an even worse version of the same problem they had when they first tried to govern: how to control the Shabab, which the United States has labeled a terrorist group. After fighting a two-year-long insurgency, the Shabab has split off from the core movement and become more radical and battle-hardened, with various factions controlling much of southern Somalia.
Militarily, the Shabab is now the biggest threat to the fragile transitional government and the moderate Islamists seeking to become part of it.