Boots on the ground?

Looking back at a previous post, I'm struck by a statement by a minister of the Transitional Government, Abdalla Haji Ali: "Besides donating assorted weapons to favored factions, unfortunately Ethiopian military personnel crossed deep in to Somali regions of Bakol and Bay in the last 48 hours."

The timing of Ethiopia's recent announcement of what may seem like public knowledge -- "We have a very active terrorist cell in Mogadishu, which has been involved in terrorist activities in Kenya" -- is curious. Both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's statement and Ali's statement were reported the same day.

Ethiopia's offer to "help" comes during ongoing African Union peace talks last week. The AU was apparently discussing plans to send troops to Somalia to guarantee the safety of the Transitional Government. Ethiopia has said that "should the process collapse, we very much hope it doesn't but if it does, we plan to protect ourselves, not sort out the mess in Somalia."

It sounds to me like preparation for putting boots on the ground in Somalia, if they have not already moved in as Ali claims they have, through proactive action.

The TopCat-led or fronted "mission" could be coming under the cover of Tim Spicer's hope (cover? hard to not question Spicer w/ the current problems of AEGIS) of humanitarian intervention through private forces since governments “won't make a decision to intervene…or [delay] until it is too late”. Use of PMC's (private military companies) for HIs (Humanitarian Interventions) is something many have written about, even in the NGO world of peace and serenity.

A side note: a paper listed in the previous link by Christopher Spearin, is located on the Sandline website. A reference Mr Spearin used is Col "Bernie" McCabe (ret.), the same as in my recent post. Only then, he was a Director for Lifeguard. He provided the information to David Isenberg, now of BASIC, on Plaza 107 (see "Background" and note 94).

Col McCabe, as Sandline rep, once said "we don't work for white powder gangs or rebel groups", preferring to work more noble causes, apparently. But Lifeguard was linked to supplying arms to Sierra Leone rebels and employed by mining companies for security. While on its face simply a security arrangement, it cross past the boundary of propriety as it was part of SL's working both sides (Sky Air Cargo) of the conflict. The region has a long history of working with private military companies. Puntland hired the Hart Group to protect its shores (why not hire them again? or are they...) in the past. Overall, listing the companies with previous engagements in the region currently connected to TopCat personnel (e.g. Lifeguard, Sandline) could make for an interesting map. Anyone going to do that chart?

This backgrounder by "Donna Somala" is interesting in its tracing and similar path my research has taken me. Of most interest is this (emphasis added on parts I've heard rumors of before): "It is evident that a US intelligence team will back Ethiopian troops when they invade Somalia in order to ensure the planned works of the Caluba oil pipeline project toward Somali ports. The interest of Ethiopia is purely economic and has nothing to do with IGAD’s so-called plan to disarm the militia."

In the end, I am confident boots will be marching in Somalia sponsored by this state or that state (Ethiopia and others), and probably including the United States in some direct or indirect manner (remember the $50m ITAR / AECA etc limits). Rumors indicate such, as does the news.