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Ethiopia In Somalia: One Year On
By Martin Plaut, BBC Africa analyst
Nairobi, December 28, 2007 – The Ethiopian decision to invade Somalia in December 2006 altered the balance of power in the Horn of Africa.
On 28 December 2006, they helped government forces capture Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu, which they had controlled for six months.
Ethiopian forces, which had been facing Eritrea along their 1,000-km border, but were otherwise confronting few security threats, are now engaged on three fronts.
The forces in Somalia are now bogged down and cannot withdraw, as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently acknowledged.
In addition to the conflict in Somalia they now also confront a growing rebellion in the Somali region of Ethiopia from the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
Knox Chitiyo, Head of the Africa programme at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes the Ethiopian military position is increasingly difficult.
"The government now has daggers pointing at it from all directions," he says.
"It is facing a multi-front war with no prospect of a military victory."
The invasion has:
The US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said: "We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia."
This is acknowledged by Ethiopian officials, who say the then head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid told them the invasion would be a mistake, and warned that Somalia would become "Ethiopia's Iraq."
Others analysts are not so apocalyptic. Ethiopia argued it had no alternative but to confront the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) after it took power in Mogadishu in mid-2006, because of the Islamists' alleged links with al-Qaeda.
The declaration of a jihad against Addis Ababa by UIC leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was seen as the last straw.