Nov 04 2011

Senator inquires Ethiopian motive, military capacity | Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006

Leaked Cables of US Embassy Addis Ababa refutes the recurrent claim regarding the December 24, 2006 Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia. Several analysts and media are often observed claiming, implicitly and explicitly, that Ethiopia went to Somalia ‘to do America’s dirty job’.

However, US Embassy Cables show US officials inquiring Ethiopia’s intention, capability and for ways to avert the military intervention, just three weeks earlier.

A Dec. 04, 2006 Cable presents a meeting between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Senator Russ Feingold, where the latter ‘expressed hope that the armed conflict between Ethiopia andSenator Russell Feingold -  Senate member 1993-2011 - Senate Intelligence Committee and Chair of the Committee Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa Somalia could be averted, and remarked that he would be surprised the USG were enthusiastic about an Ethiopian military intervention’.

The meeting took place on four days earlier during Senator Russ Feingold’s three-day visit to Ethiopia.

In the meeting the Ethiopian Premier pointed out that:

* the GOE’s aim was to convince CIC "fellow travelers" that the GOE would be forced to act militarily to prevent the CIC from defeating the TFG and continuing its expansion. Meles said although the GOE continued outreach efforts to avert conflict, he was not optimistic.

* the GOE’s objective would be to remove the CIC’s Jihadist leadership by "letting people know that such a government in Somalia is unacceptable to Ethiopia." The GOE intended to convince key Somali actors that Ethiopia had the capacity and commitment to intervene effectively and repeatedly if necessary to prevent the consolidation of an extremist regime in Mogadishu. Meles recalled the GOE’s successful campaign against Sheik Aweys and his associates when they fought with Al-Itihad Al- Islamiya (AIAI) in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Yet, the Senator inquired if Ethiopia has ulterior motives. The Cable states that:

Sen. Feingold asked about the GOE’s plans for stabilizing Somalia after military intervention, and wondered what kind of Somalia Meles hoped to see eventually. Would Ethiopia tolerate a unified Somalia? The application of Sharia Law? Did the GOE favor Somaliland’s independence?

Meles answered that the GOE did not have the means to pursue the kind of reconstruction and reform agenda that the U.S. had pursued in Iraq. "We must tailor our agenda to our means." That agenda would be limited to 1) proving that Jihadists could not rule Somalia; and 2) redressing the current military imbalance to encourage dialogue between moderate members of the CIC and the TFG. The PM stated that although Ethiopia did not like the idea of Sharia Law, Somalis had the right to implement it. What they did not have the right to do was promote Jihadist expansionism. Meles said that the GOE had no problem with a united Somalia. He noted that Puntland favored a loose confederation, while Somaliland made an argument for independence based on the principles of espoused by the African Union. Resolving these questions was not part of Ethiopia’s agenda, however.

The Senator had also doubts if Ethiopia’s military offensive would succeed. According to the Cable:

Sen. Feingold asked whether the GOE was concerned about the increasing military strength of the CIC and the difficult logistical challenges that Ethiopian forces would face operating in Somalia. If Ethiopia were unsuccessful in its offensive, wouldn’t this embolden the Jihadists?

Meles replied that Ethiopian military forces would not stay in Somalia for long periods. While it was difficult to predict the course of operations, he expected to deploy large forces no longer than a week or two. He underscored that Ethiopia did not have to defeat the CIC absolutely, but simply needed to deny the extremists complete victory.

Senator Feingold, who chairs the Armed Committee of the Senate, hinted that the US government is not enthusiastic about Ethiopia’s plan to intervene. According to the Cable:

Sen. Feingold thanked the Prime Minister for his direct answers. He expressed hope that the armed conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia could be averted, and remarked that he would be surprised the USG were enthusiastic about an Ethiopian military intervention. At the same time, Feingold acknowledged that the GOE was in a difficult situation which he now understood better. [Emphasis mine]

Meles replied that no one, including the GOE, was enthusiastic about conflict, but sometimes circumstances made military action the only option.

Another Cable, dated Dec. 06, 2006, presents a meeting between PM Meles Zenawi and Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Addis Ababa.Madeleine Korbel Albright - the first female Secretary of State of US from 1997-2000 under President Clinton

Though Albright noted that ‘she was a private citizen (and not a USG representative)’, her meeting with PM Meles was  attended by the US Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto as well as a senior official of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Addressing Albright’s question regarding ‘the current situation in Somalia and about Ethiopia’s intentions’, Meles Zenawi remarked as follows:

Meles said that there was a window of opportunity a year ago when the TFG was established. At that time, Meles added, the Islamists were contained to small areas in the country and the TFG wanted to establish law and order. Meles quipped that the U.S. was "not of the same mind" and preferred to seek out terrorists rather than focus on strengthening the TFG. Now, Meles said, jihadists have a seemingly unstoppable momentum and have nearly completed their takeover of the country.

Ethiopia’s possible intervention is the only reason the entire country has not collapsed into CIC hands, said Meles. Meles told Albright that the U.S. understands someone must stop the CIC and does not oppose Ethiopian action to protect its national security, but worries that Ethiopia will get "stuck." The EU, Meles added, is "more ambivalent" than the U.S. [Emphasis mine]

An observation of the US Embassy Addis Ababa, presented in another Cable dated Dec. 06, 2006, reveals Ethiopia’s last-ditch effort to avoid the military option.

The Cable states that:

DATT [the Embassy’s defense attaché] believes that the ENDF, which is just emerging from a 10-days commanders conference, is prepared to launch operations roughly one week after rains have ended, if the order is given. All source intelligence has shown a steady build-up of Ethiopian military assets, including tanks, artillery, troop transport and other heavy equipment on both sides of Ethiopia’s border with southern Somalia. Air assets including attack helicopters have not yet moved within range of their likely targets, but appear poised for action just outside the immediate theater, ready to move when the signal is given. Post’s best estimate is that the ENDF will be poised to launch their offensive approximately in the latter part of December.

Scheduled CIC-TFG talks in Nairobi and Khartoum mid-month might prompt the GOE to delay if there is reason to believe that the CIC might change and engage more seriously in such talks. Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda’s Dec. 1 talks with CIC representatives in Djibouti represent a last-ditch effort to change CIC behavior without resorting to war. [Emphasis mine]

ENDF assets currently positioned near southern Somalia suggest an attack prosecuted by roughly 10,000 ENDF troops, 36 artillery pieces and 40-50 T-54/55 tanks. The ENDF will likely support the TFG militia numbering 8,000-10,000 as well as Puntland defense forces numbering 3-4,000. The twin objectives of the operation will be to drive CIC forces away from the seat of Somalia’s TFG in Baidoa, as well as destroy those CIC forces that threaten Puntland. The ENDF is likely to utilize limited aerial bombing and attack helicopters against CIC forces, training camps and other key facilities. There are also indications that the ENDF commandos will conduct quick strikes against CIC targets. The lack of forward positioning of large logistical fuel and lubricant bladders and other supplies suggests that the ENDF does not expect the potential engagement to last longer than seven days and does not plan to attack Mogadishu.

PM Meles told Amb. Yamamoto Nov. 29 that Ethiopian measures against the CIC would not be limited to conventional warfare. He talked of the ruling EPRDF returning to "guerilla mode" against its Islamist opponents, (note: probably referring to planned commando raids. End note.) Meles told Sen. Feingold Nov. 30 (ref C) that the GOE intended to 1) reduce the CIC’s military capacity; and 2) send a message to the Somali public and moderate CIC members that Ethiopia would not permit the consolidation of a fundamentalist regime in Somalia. In the GOE’s view, a successful offensive will create incentives for more moderate leadership in the CIC and for more sincere and pragmatic negotiations between the CIC and the TFG. The PM stated that the ENDF did not plan on remaining in Somalia in large numbers longer than 5-7 days.

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Read below the full text of the three Cables.

Note: This is the fourth post of the Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006 series. The series presents about 17 US Embassy Cables from Oct-Dec. 2006 which casts light on the role of US and other parties on the eve of Ethiopia’s Dec. 2006 military operation in Somalia. You can Catch-up with the first post – here (link), the second post – here (link), the third post – here (link) OR find all the posts in the series – here (link).

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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA3175
Created – 2006-12-04 05:50
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification – CONFIDENTIAL
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 003175
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2016
TAGS: PREL MOPS ASEC PHUM ET SO

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: SEN. FEINGOLD TALKS SOMALIA, HUMAN RIGHTS WITH PM MELES 
Classified By: P/E Counselor Kevin Sullivan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY:  PM Meles told visiting U.S. Senator Feingold Nov. 30 that while the GOE was trying to avoid war with the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) in Somalia, armed conflict was likely in the coming weeks.  Meles expected that the CIC would move against Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa as well as against Puntland.  Ethiopia’s military objective would be to strike quick, painful blows to the CIC’s military capacity and show CIC "fellow travelers" that Ethiopia would not permit the consolidation of an extremist regime in Mogadishu.  The GOE hoped that this development would open the way for more moderate CIC leaders to open genuine dialogue with the TFG.  The PM characterized the current CIC leadership as a "franchise of Al Qaeda" and a "Taliban in the making."  Sen. Feingold said he understood the GOE’s concerns and recognized the difficulty of its situation, but said he was not enthusiastic about military action.  He expressed concerns about the possibility of a military defeat for Ethiopia, and asked about the GOE’s plans for a post-conflict phase in Somalia.  Meles answered that Ethiopian forces would not stay for long periods in Somalia, and said that Ethiopia planned to let Somalis work out their own political solutions after the CIC’s momentum had been checked.  Sen. Feingold also expressed concern about respect for human rights in Ethiopia and suggested that a pardon for CUD detainees and continued progress on democratic reforms would improve U.S. perceptions of the GOE.  Meles said a pardon was possible after the conclusion of the CUD trial and reiterated his government’s commitment to continued democratic reform.  He denied that the GOE had overreacted to November 2005 protests, but acknowledged that he had failed to adequately prepare security forces to deal with the unrest.  On China’s growing relations with Africa, Meles told Feingold that such ties were no substitute for good relations with the West.  The PM warned that if the USG withdraws from Iraq in defeat, the consequences for the whole region, including Ethiopia, could be dire.  End Summary.

2. (U) Sen. Russ Feingold, accompanied by Senate staffers Grey Frandsen and Evan Gottesman, met with Prime Minister Meles Nov. 30. during a three-day visit to Ethiopia.  Amb. Yamamoto and P/E Counselor (notetaker) also accompanied the Senator.  Meles was joined by MFA acting Director for Europe and the Americas Almaz Amha and PM assistant Gebretensai. 
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CIC IS AL QAEDA FRANCHISE
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3. (C) After thanking PM Meles for the meeting and noting the positive U.S.-Ethiopian relationship, Sen. Feingold asked the PM about Ethiopian plans for dealing with Somalia.  Meles replied that the situation in Somalia had deteriorated significantly in the last six months.  Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the CIC had filled a political vacuum in Somalia, providing security and stability in areas that they controlled.  Meles said the CIC was also riding a wave of resurgent Jihadism in the region which had been encouraged by developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He noted that the CIC had been implementing the same brand of radical Islam espoused by other extremists, as was evidenced by their censoring of television programming and cinemas, as well as their ban on khat.  Meles acknowledged that Somalis had traditionally resisted such extreme interpretations of Islam, but also remarked that Somalis "liked to back a winning horse" and Jihadists had accumulated a string of victories that was winning converts to their cause.  This gathering military momentum had allowed a relatively small group of extremists to dominate the large and diverse organizations who formed the CIC.  Meles said CIC leaders Sheik Aweys, Aidan Ayro and Hassan al-Turki had direct connections to Al Qaeda that were known to intelligence services, including in the U.S.  He agreed with Sen. Feingold’s suggestion that the CIC could be considered a "franchise of Al Qaeda." 
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GOE AIM:  REDUCE CIC FIGHTING CAPACITY, STOP MOMENTUM
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4. (C) The PM told Feingold that the GOE’s aim was to convince CIC "fellow travelers" that the GOE would be forced to act militarily to prevent the CIC from defeating the TFG and continuing its expansion.  Meles said although the GOE continued outreach efforts to avert conflict, he was not optimistic.  When Sen. Feingold asked how long the GOE could wait, Meles said the question was rather "how long the CIC will give us."  He said the CIC was likely to attack both the TFG in Baidoa and the provisional government in Puntland, probably soon after the end of the rainy season in Somalia (note: rains are expected to end in the coming weeks).

5. (C) Meles told Feingold that the GOE’s objective would be to remove the CIC’s Jihadist leadership by "letting people know that such a government in Somalia is unacceptable to Ethiopia."  The GOE intended to convince key Somali actors that Ethiopia had the capacity and commitment to intervene effectively and repeatedly if necessary to prevent the consolidation of an extremist regime in Mogadishu.  Meles recalled the GOE’s successful campaign against Sheik Aweys and his associates when they fought with Al-Itihad Al-Islamiya (AIAI) in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

6. (C) Sen. Feingold asked whether the GOE was concerned about the increasing military strength of the CIC and the difficult logistical challenges that Ethiopian forces would face operating in Somalia.  If Ethiopia were unsuccessful in its offensive, wouldn’t this embolden the Jihadists?  Meles replied that Ethiopian military forces would not stay in Somalia for long periods.  While it was difficult to predict the course of operations, he expected to deploy large forces no longer than a week or two.  He underscored that Ethiopia did not have to defeat the CIC absolutely, but simply needed to deny the extremists complete victory. 
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GOE’S POST-CONFLICT AMBITIONS LIMITED
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7. (C) Sen. Feingold asked about the GOE’s plans for stabilizing Somalia after military intervention, and wondered what kind of Somalia Meles hoped to see eventually.  Would Ethiopia tolerate a unified Somalia?  The application of Sharia Law?  Did the GOE favor Somaliland’s independence? Meles answered that the GOE did not have the means to pursue the kind of reconstruction and reform agenda that the U.S. had pursued in Iraq.  "We must tailor our agenda to our means."  That agenda would be limited to 1) proving that Jihadists could not rule Somalia; and 2) redressing the current military imbalance to encourage dialogue between moderate members of the CIC and the TFG.  The PM stated that although Ethiopia did not like the idea of Sharia Law, Somalis had the right to implement it.  What they did not have the right to do was promote Jihadist expansionism. Meles said that the GOE had no problem with a united Somalia.  He noted that Puntland favored a loose confederation, while Somaliland made an argument for independence based on the principles of espoused by the African Union.  Resolving these questions was not part of Ethiopia’s agenda, however. 
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FEINGOLD:  HOPE CONFLICT AVERTED, BUT UNDERSTAND CONCERNS
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8. (C) Sen. Feingold thanked the Prime Minister for his direct answers.  He expressed hope that the armed conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia could be averted, and remarked that he would be surprised the USG were enthusiastic about an Ethiopian military intervention.  At the same time, Feingold acknowledged that the GOE was in a difficult situation which he now understood better.  Meles replied that no one, including the GOE, was enthusiastic about conflict, but sometimes circumstances made military action the only option. 
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FEINGOLD: RELATIONS GOOD, BUT HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMATIC
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9. (C) Sen. Feingold said he knew that the USG had a good relationship with Ethiopia and had learned more from his earlier meetings about positive developments in the country. 
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The principal problem in the relationship, however, remained the issue of human rights.  He had heard about problems during the post-electoral period, including the detention of opposition leaders.  He asked if the GOE was considering a pardon for the detainees.  Meles said that rule of law must apply to all Ethiopians and that the current judicial process involving opposition leaders must be completed.  He acknowledged that the GOE had been discussing the possibility of a subsequent pardon for the detainees.

10. (C) Meles denied that the GOE had overreacted to the November 2005 protests and reviewed for Sen. Feingold his government’s efforts to avert a confrontation with the opposition after the election.  He noted that he had worked with Charge Huddleston and others on these efforts.  The CUD leadership had eventually decided not to follow this path, however, and had instead chosen to pursue a change of government through street action.  Meles claimed that when he saw street confrontations coming, he had met with senior and even mid-ranking commanders of the security forces to explain the situation.  He had emphasized the need to avoid any killings in putting down the protests, since provoking such incidents was the essence of the CUD’s strategy for overthrowing the GOE.  Police had not received adequate training or equipment to deal with the magnitude of the disturbances, however.  The PM accepted the responsibility for this failure, and noted that "the British could probably have handled the protests without killing anyone."  Meles also expressed satisfaction with the work and report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the incidents. 
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PROGRESS ON DEMOCRATIC REFORMS ESSENTIAL
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11. (C) Sen. Feingold alluded to the growing political influence of the Ethiopian Diaspora in the U.S. and noted that most are critical of the GOE.  He noted that the best ways to defuse this problem would be 1) resolving the situation of the CUD detainees; and 2) continue making progress on democratic reforms, including a new media law. He asked about the GOE’s plans for reform.  Meles said the GOE was working hard on the reform agenda.  He remarked that post-electoral problems had prompted the GOE to "take a second look" at the country’s democratic institutions and examine best international practices through a series of studies.  He acknowledged that there was room for improvement in the media framework and said he expected to make progress on the new law through consultations with stakeholders and Parliamentary discussion.

12. (C)  The PM reiterated that the GOE was pursuing democratization as a matter of national survival, given the country’s diversity.  Ethiopia had a history of changing governments through rebellion that the GOE was trying to overcome by creating space for peaceful dissent.  In order to accomplish this, everyone had to play by the rules.  Meles argued that the ruling EPRDF had re-defined the concept of Ethiopia (by instituting ethnic federalism) in 1991.  This fundamental change had clearly angered those from the previous regime, many of whom were now leaders of the Diaspora.  Meles said that resolving the situation of the CUD detainees was an issue that had to be addressed, but he had no illusion that any action the GOE could take would ever win over these Diaspora leaders, who would likely remain perennial critics of the EPRDF.  Sen. Feingold replied that he did not take Diaspora criticism of the GOE at face value and could now better assess their claims.  He added he would ask them to acknowledge the progress that Ethiopia was making. 
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ISLAMIC EXTREMISM A GROWING PROBLEM IN ETHIOPIA
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13. (C) Sen. Feingold asked whether Meles considered growing Islamic extremism in Ethiopia a serious problem.  Meles said that he did.  He noted that Ethiopia had welcomed Islam even before Arab nations, and had in fact from the earliest times welcomed all three major religions that had grown out of the Middle East.  This culture of tolerance was now under siege, however, from Islamic extremism funded mainly by money from 
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Saudi Arabia.  Wahhabists had trained activists to spread extreme interpretations of Islam within Ethiopia, and other forces, like AIAI, were also contributing to the problem. Meles said he was still optimistic that moderate Ethiopian Muslims could contain the spread of extremism and noted that one of the most modern interpretations of Islam had emerged in Lebanon through Ethiopian immigrants.  The GOE had asked some to return to Ethiopia to promote moderation and tolerance.  Sen. Feingold commented that the USG faced the same challenge of reaching out to moderate Muslims around the world. 
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CHINA TIES NO SUBSTITUTE FOR WEST
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14. (C) When the Senator asked about China’s growing ties and influence in Africa, the Prime Minister said, "Ninety percent of China’s relations in the region are business-related."  He remarked that China offered cheap and adequate alternatives for poor countries needing technology and infrastructure. China also offered generous credit terms — including $2 billion for Ethiopian public enterprises alone in the last six months.  China was also the fastest growing market for Ethiopian exports.  Meles said China was seen by many African leaders as "less meddlesome" than Western partners, and more predictable in its support.  He argued that China’s help was not completely unconditional, however, as had recently been evident in Sudan/Darfur.  The PM also noted that the visit to China recently made by many African heads of state had been an expression of appreciation for China’s role, but added that most serious African leaders recognized that increasing ties with China should not be done at the expense of relations with Europe, the U.S. and emerging powers like Brazil and India.  The Chinese had their own agenda and interests and might not be so flexible and generous if they became the only option for African governments. 
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MELES ON IRAQ:  U.S. SHOULD NOT LEAVE DEFEATED
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15.  (C) Sen. Feingold asked the PM for his candid views on the situation in Iraq as well as the USG’s current policy options.  Meles said that the GOE had supported the U.S. intervention in Iraq primarily because of the country seemed to be a good candidate for transformation into a secular, democratic regime given its level of development and other factors.  This was a particularly important goal, given that Iraq bordered Saudi Arabia, whose potential capture by a fundamentalist regime posed an enormous danger to the region and the world.  Meles added that Ethiopia had also been happy to see the U.S. join the global war on terror aggressively. The GOE had not believed charges that Saddam Hussein’s regime had connections to Al Qaeda, but did believe that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was disappointed when the failure to find such weapons undermined the credibility of the coalition.

16. (C) Concerning strategies in Iraq going forward, Meles urged the USG not to "leave like you did in Vietnam, not with your tail between your legs."  It would be better to scale back your ambitions and try to withdraw on a positive note. If the USG left Iraq defeated, there would be negative consequences for the whole gulf region; countries would find it less attractive to support the U.S.  The PM noted that while the U.S. still had the option to retreat back to its own shores, other countries (like Ethiopia) did not have the Atlantic Ocean to protect them.  He noted that the last time radical Islam had surged in the 16th Century, it drove Ethiopia from empire back into the Dark Ages.

17. (U) Sen. Feingold cleared this message.
YAMAMOTO
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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA3206
Created – 2006-12-06 06:17
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification
UNCLASSIFIED
Origin
– Embassy Addis Ababa

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TAGS: MOPS PREL PTER SO SU DJ ER ET

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: PM MELES MEETS WITH FMR SECSTATE ALBRIGHT ON DARFUR, SOMALIA, ERITREA

1. (SBU) Summary.  While visiting Addis Ababa to promote the UNDP’s Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi December 1 to discuss Ethiopia’s support of the Commission and her concern about the deteriorating situations in Darfur and Somalia.  Meles said that Bashir would continue his defiance of the international community because he feared the U.S. ultimately wanted regime change in Sudan.  Meles recommended that the U.S. re-engage in Darfur as a partner in the dialogue between the GOS and rebels.  With regard to Somalia, Meles said that dialogue was "improbable" and that limited military action to "divorce" the jihadists from the CIC was more likely.  Eritrea, Meles contended, was not interested in resolving its border conflict with Ethiopia and has started a proxy war through Somalia.  End Summary.

2. (SBU) Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, accompanied by the Albright Group’s Manager of Communications Jamie Smith, met with Prime Minister Meles December 1 during a two-day visit to Ethiopia.  Ambassador Yamamoto and poloff (notetaker) also accompanied the Secretary.  Meles was joined by MFA Acting Director for Europe and the Americas Almaz Amha and the Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister Gebretensai Gebremichael.

DARFUR
—— 
3. (SBU) Secretary Albright spoke briefly about her role as co-chair of the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor and gained the Prime Minister’s support for the Commission’s work in Ethiopia.  Albright moved quickly on to other matters of substance, including Darfur.  Albright said that the American public was "at a loss" for what’s going on in Darfur and pointedly asked Meles what he thought about Sudanese President Bashir.  Meles cited two reasons for Bashir’s continued defiance of the United Nations takeover of the AU mission: first, Bashir believes that any sanctions imposed by the international community would hurt Southern Sudan groups; and second, Bashir is convinced that the U.S. only wants "regime change" in Sudan.  Meles said that Bashir plans to preempt a UN force by bringing the rebel groups together with the assistance of Eritrea and Libya.  Eritrea, Meles contended, has influence over eastern Sudanese rebel groups and would be willing to help Sudan with the proper "compensation," including oil and normalized relations with Sudan.  Meles said that a byproduct of the Sudan/Eritrea cooperation would be a possible rift in Sudan/Ethiopia relations.

4. (SBU) Meles suggested that the U.S. back away from any regime change ideas in Sudan, economic sanctions or military action and focus on playing a constructive role in negotiations between the rebels and GOS.  The PM added that the U.S. would need to help implement any agreements that result from dialogue.  Meles noted that Egypt plays a substantial role in the region and the U.S. might think about engaging the country further on the issue.  Meles said that the U.S. must understand that Darfur is a "waiting game" and there are not any quick solutions.

SOMALIA
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5. (SBU) Albright reminded the Prime Minister that she was a private citizen (and not a USG representative) and lamented that Somalia was once again at the forefront of American foreign policy.  Albright asked what Meles thought of the current situation in Somalia and about Ethiopia’s intentions.  Meles said that there was a window of opportunity a year ago when the TFG was established.  At that time, Meles added, the Islamists were contained to small areas in the country and the TFG wanted to establish law and order.  Meles quipped that the U.S. was "not of the same mind" and preferred to seek out terrorists rather than focus on strengthening the TFG.  Now, Meles said, jihadists have a seemingly unstoppable momentum and have nearly completed their takeover of the country.

6. (SBU) Meles indicated that there are only three areas of Somalia not under CIC control:  Baidoa, Somaliland, and Puntland.  Ethiopia’s possible intervention is the only reason the entire country has not collapsed into CIC hands, said Meles.  Meles told Albright that the U.S. understands someone must stop the CIC and does not oppose Ethiopian 
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action to protect its national security, but worries that Ethiopia will get "stuck."  The EU, Meles added, is "more ambivalent" than the U.S.  Meles acknowledged that dialogue was the best solution to the problem, but said it was "improbable" that the CIC would engage in dialogue.  Meles said that the CIC needed to be divided from the jihadists and that limited military action might precipitate this "divorce."

Eritrea
——-
7. (SBU) Albright asked whether Ethiopia was getting bogged down having to deal with the "Talibanization" of Somalia and the ongoing conflict with Eritrea.  Meles added that, at the moment, there was no threat of military conflict with Eritrea in the north.  Ethiopia, he said, was prepared to move forward with demarcation of the border via a broader dialogue with Eritrea, but noted that Eritrea was not interested in dialogue.  Meles said Eritrea’s solution to the border conflict was to use Somalia to conduct a proxy war.  Meles told Albright that Eritrea was receiving money from Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to fund jihadist activities in Somalia.  He noted that Yemen, however, was a friend to Ethiopia and playing a constructive role.

NDI

8. (SBU) Albright briefly mentioned how she was disappointed about the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) expulsion from the country last year and asked how the organization might again operate in Ethiopia.  Meles said it was a "unfortunate decision" to expel NDI and there were "misunderstandings" on both sides.  Meles indicated he was prepared to work on the GOE’s relationship with NDI.
YAMAMOTO
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Reference ID – 06ADDISABABA3211
Created -2006-12-06 13:26
Released – 2011-08-30 01:44
Classification -SECRET
Origin – Embassy Addis Ababa

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 003211
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF A/S FRAZER
PARIS AND ROME FOR AFRICA-WATCHER
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2016
TAGS: MOPS PREL PGOV PINS ET SO ER

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA GIRDS FOR HIGH-RISK IN SOMALIA
REF: A. ADDIS 3115
     ¶B. DJIBOUTI 1428
     ¶C. ADDIS 3175
Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor Kevin Sullivan.  Reason: 1.4 (A),(B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary:  Indications suggest that Ethiopia is preparing to increase its military involvement in Somalia in the coming weeks.  The GOE feels ever more compelled to intervene in southern Somalia to counter what it sees as the growing threat of an extremist Islamic regime in Mogadishu that is cooperating with Eritrea and other foreign elements to undermine Ethiopian stability and territorial integrity. PM Meles told Amb. Yamamoto on Nov. 29 that the GOE would return to its guerrilla roots to prosecute a brief, multi-pronged military campaign against the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC), rather than a sustained conventional offensive.  The GOE has been steadily building up its military forces around its southern border with Somalia and has intensified its military cooperation with the government of Puntland.  While Ethiopia and its allies in Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Puntland should be able to muster a significantly larger (perhaps 15-20,000) and better-trained fighting force than the CIC, the CIC appears to be marshalling a credible force of at least 5,000 fighters operating hundreds of "technicals" on their home ground. Recent arms shipments from Eritrea, Libya and Gulf state extremist organizations like Hizbollah have equipped the CIC to offer at least some resistance to Ethiopia’s tanks, planes and helicopters.  The CIC may also enjoy an advantage in terms of the motivation of its fighting force, which will likely be led by radical figures from "al Shebaab."  The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), for its part, are still coping with recent purges and morale problems.  PM Meles has gone to unusual lengths to unite Ethiopia’s major political parties behind him as he prepares for battle, but tensions and distrust lingering from 2005 elections and crackdown on internal opposition ultimately undermined this effort.  The bottom line is that the ENDF could enter into limited military engagements in Somalia in the coming weeks which may prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine.  End Summary. 
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INDICATORS ALL POINT TO AN ETHIOPIAN OFFENSIVE
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2. (S) The signals became unmistakable in late November that the GOE is preparing for increased military involvement in Somalia.  PM Meles’ speech to Parliament November 23 (ref A) laid out the GOE’s justification for action to counter the "clear and present danger" posed by the CIC.  Meles’ contentions that 1) the CIC had already declared war (jihad) on Ethiopia; and 2) the CIC had already violated Ethiopian sovereignty by arming and transporting OLF and ONLF fighters across the border formed the heart of this justification.  In private, Meles has referred consistently to the end of the rains in Somalia as the trigger for Ethiopian limited military operations against the CIC.  Weather forecasts suggest that the rain may taper off beginning the week of Dec. 4, allowing ground-based operations to begin once the terrain dries.  DATT believes that the ENDF, which is just emerging from a 10-days commanders conference, is prepared to launch operations roughly one week after rains have ended, if the order is given.  All source intelligence has shown a steady build-up of Ethiopian military assets, including tanks, artillery, troop transport and other heavy equipment on both sides of Ethiopia’s border with southern Somalia. Air assets including attack helicopters have not yet moved within range of their likely targets, but appear poised for action just outside the immediate theater, ready to move when the signal is given.  Post’s best estimate is that the ENDF will be poised to launch their offensive approximately in the latter part of December.  Scheduled CIC-TFG talks in Nairobi and Khartoum mid-month might prompt the GOE to delay if there is reason to believe that the CIC might change and engage more seriously in such talks.  Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda’s Dec. 1 talks with CIC representatives in Djibouti (ref B) represent a last-ditch effort to change CIC behavior without resorting to war. 
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SEVEN DAY WAR?
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3. (S) ENDF assets currently positioned near southern Somalia suggest an attack prosecuted by roughly 10,000 ENDF troops, 36 artillery pieces and 40-50 T-54/55 tanks.  The ENDF will likely support the TFG militia numbering 8,000-10,000 as well as Puntland defense forces numbering 3-4,000.  The twin objectives of the operation will be to drive CIC forces away from the seat of Somalia’s TFG in Baidoa, as well as destroy those CIC forces that threaten Puntland.  The ENDF is likely to utilize limited aerial bombing and attack helicopters against CIC forces, training camps and other key facilities. There are also indications that the ENDF commandos will conduct quick strikes against CIC targets.  The lack of forward positioning of large logistical fuel and lubricant bladders and other supplies suggests that the ENDF does not expect the potential engagement to last longer than seven days and does not plan to attack Mogadishu.

4. (C) PM Meles told Amb. Yamamoto Nov. 29 that Ethiopian measures against the CIC would not be limited to conventional warfare.  He talked of the ruling EPRDF returning to "guerilla mode" against its Islamist opponents, (note: probably referring to planned commando raids.  End note.) Meles told Sen. Feingold Nov. 30 (ref C) that the GOE intended to 1) reduce the CIC’s military capacity; and 2) send a message to the Somali public and moderate CIC members that Ethiopia would not permit the consolidation of a fundamentalist regime in Somalia.  In the GOE’s view, a successful offensive will create incentives for more moderate leadership in the CIC and for more sincere and pragmatic negotiations between the CIC and the TFG.  The PM stated that the ENDF did not plan on remaining in Somalia in large numbers longer than 5-7 days. 
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WHO IS THE REAL UNDERDOG?
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5. (C) Most analysts believe that Ethiopia possesses clear military superiority over the CIC in terms of overall manpower, equipment, training and experience in battle. While this may be true in general, the battle that is shaping up in southern Somalia may pit a relatively modest ENDF contingent against a more motivated, highly mobile and relatively well equipped CIC force.  Current estimates suggest that Ethiopian troops will not enjoy an overwhelming superiority in numbers in the theatre of battle.  Long supply lines stretching through hostile territory in Ethiopia’s Somali region will place additional strain on the GOE’s ability to wage war.  Moreover, the ENDF has recently begun undergone a series of purges theoretically designed to weed out poor performing officers from its ranks, but which in fact appeared to have an anti-Oromo and anti-Amhara character meant to reduce the danger of OLF infiltration. 
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HOME FRONT SHAKY, BUT HOLDING
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6. (C) PM Meles’ effort to obtain a consensus authorization from Parliament to employ "all means necessary" to counter the threat in Somalia was rebuffed Nov. 30 by the majority of opposition MPs.  While the EPRDF passed the resolution by a comfortable margin, 99 MPs from the CUDP, UEDF and OFDM blocs (or roughly one-fourth of the House of People’s Representatives’ 426 members) voted against the resolution. While initially pleased about being consulted, Opposition leaders later criticized the GOE’s insistence on mentioning both Eritrea and internal insurgency groups the OLF and ONLF in its draft resolution.  The opposition argued that the claims of internal groups should be addressed through negotiations, rather than lumping them together with external threats.  UEDF leader Beyene Petros indicated privately to Pol/Econ Counselor that pressure from Oromo constituents of his ally, the Oromo National Congress (ONC) prevented him from accepting this point.  The OLF, for its part, issued a statement Dec. 4 criticizing Parliament’s approval of the 
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authorization measure and praising opposition leaders for opposing it.  Ruling party press outlets, on the other hand, severely criticized the opposition’s "lukewarm" support for Ethiopian sovereignty.

7. (C) While a significant portion of the population in Ethiopia may oppose Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia, many Ethiopians are concerned about the threat of Islamic extremism and are likely to back — or at least not actively oppose — the strong measures the GOE is pursuing. There is also a risk, however, that some Ethiopian Muslims will sympathize with the CIC.  Nonetheless, the GOE appears fully capable of containing opposition to its policy on Somalia and of maintaining order during the potential military operations.  Internal stability remains the paramount concern of the ruling party, which worries that the CIC, in cooperation with Eritrea, will send terrorist agents to Ethiopia and support internal rebel groups like the OLF and ONLF.  The EPRDF has not betrayed significant concerns about a CIC counter-offensive against Ethiopia’s Somali Region.
YAMAMOTO

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Go to the Wikileaks archive OR the Ethiopia’s Somalia intervention 2006 series archive for related posts.

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