* To join Kenya, Somalia troops fighting al Shabaab (Adds details,
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Ethiopia will deploy troops inside Somalia
for a "brief period" to help Somali and Kenyan forces battling Islamist
militants expand their control in southern Somalia, Ethiopian officials said
A government official also acknowledged for the first time that a small
force had already rolled across the border to carry out reconnaissance
missions. Ethiopia had previously denied that scores of military trucks and
armoured vehicles had moved in on Nov. 19 and 20.
"We are looking at a brief period of time, weeks. We don't want our
deployment to be used for propaganda by the extremists," the government
official, who declined to be named, told Reuters after a meeting of regional
leaders in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The official said Ethiopia is yet to fully deploy its troops, with the
mission in its preliminary stage and only reconnaissance and liaison
activities carried out so far.
An Ethiopian military official confirmed the mission would be short to avoid
"negative consequences". Neither official gave any details on the size or
scope of the eventual deployment.
Kenya's incursion into southern Somalia, now in its sixth week, to crush the
rebels who control much of the south and centre of the lawless country, has
been plagued by heavy rains and the militants' guerilla-tactics.
A military victory, though, is unlikely to end two decades of anarchy unless
the country's feuding politicians and clans want peace.
Mahboub Maalim, head of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development (IGAD) bloc, said Ethiopia had promised to "assist in the peace
and stabilisation activities" ongoing in Somalia, during a heads of state
gathering focusing on the war-torn country.
The region's leaders also called on the United Nations to change the mandate
of African Union (AMISOM) troops that are currently limited to operations
within Mogadishu, and to boost its ceiling of 12,000 soldiers.
The force -- at present comprising Ugandan and Burundian troops -- now has
some 9,800 soldiers, but the African Union has requested the U.N. to
authorise the deployment of 20,000.
IGAD "calls on the Security Council to enhance the mandate of AMISOM and to
authorise its strengthening to a level and size that is appropriate for the
consolidation of peace and security in Mogadishu and south and central
Somalia and other secured areas," said a statement released after the
Analysts, however, say there is little appetite for Western countries to
stump up more funding for an extended mission.
"It's difficult to see how that could happen anytime soon given that the
salaries of the soldiers are paid for by the West. There's no stomach for
giving any more money to AMISOM," said a Western diplomat working in the
The bloc also urged Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to
take advantage of recent gains and offensives and move into newly liberated
Experts say President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government has done little to
convince its neighbours it is capable of extending its sphere of power
beyond the capital.
The unelected government's legitimacy is already battered by internal power
struggles and corruption. Its reliance on yet another foreign incursion
might damage its credibility further if there is no swift political follow
IGAD "urges the TFG leadership to take advantage of the expanded liberated
territories and populations to foster security, enhance national
reconciliation, and consolidate political and administrative control," the
IGAD statement said. (Reporting by Aaron Maasho; writing by Richard Lough;
editing by George Obulutsa)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Sat Nov 26 2011 - 16:05:19 EST