Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

SA Army 'too overstretched' to commit to Somalia
One of the things that really surprised me on my return from holiday was just how easily the Ethiopian forces, together with forces loyal to the previous Somalian government (a misnomer if ever), were able to largely defeat the Islamists that had recently overrun most of Somalia. There was undoubtedly some US special forces assistance in the operation, given both the US's financial assistance for the warlords last year, as well as the 'Al-Qaeda operations' last week.

As sad a statement as this is, I am relieved that the battle was a short as it was, given what could have occurred. With the Islamists calling for Jihad against Ethiopia, a more protracted and costly battle could have easily been envisaged. I suppose the Iraq marketing brochure is just too tough to beat for any young Islamic fanatic.

South Africa has been asked to contribute to the peace-keeping force in Somalia, and Thabo's response doesn't warrant much respect for the size and readiness of our armed forces. Thabo inferred that it is unlikely that SA could commit many, given that "we've got people deployed in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), we've got people deployed in Burundi, we've got people deployed in the Sudan". Given that there are 1400 troops in the DRC, 850 in Burundi and about 370 in Darfur (a total of about 2620 troops), it does seem that we are fairly short in fighting men and women. This probably isn't any surprise to most, given the poor state of our military leadership structures.

Whatever the case, the military in SA has to be sorted out. As Africa's leading nation, we need to be involved in resolving conflicts and maintaining peace in our continent. A war-free, more prosperous Africa means a safer, more prosperous South Africa.