The government of Somalia has assured the United States both orally and in writing that its regular military forces hence-forth will not be used in neighboring Ethiopia, a senior Somali officials said yesterday.
The statement came from Abdullar Amed Addou, Somali minister of finance, former ambassador to Washington and a member of the Somali negotiating team that last month concluded a bilateral agreement permitting the United States to use Somali military facilities.
"We have no desire, intention or interest to drag the United States into a local conflict," Addou said in an interview. He was addressing the concern expressed on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that the recent U.S.-Somali facilities agreement eventually may involve the United States on the side of Somalia in hot war with Ethiopia, which is backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba.
The Somali officials said the term "regular military forces" in the assurances to the United States should not be interpreted narrowly. "We mean regular, irregular or camouflaged," he said.
Somal regular forces in multi-battalon strength were fighting early this summer in Ethiopia's Ogaden region, which also is claimed by Somalia, according to State Department officials. The Central Intelligence Agency is reported to have told a House subcommittee last week that elements of three Somali battalions, plus up to 1,00 other Somali troops, remain in Ethiopia.
Asked if Somali troops are now in Ethiopia, Addou replied, "Whatever we had is either completely withdrawn or in the process of being withdrawn."
The Somali official said that his government has reached "a policy decision" that the struggle of various groups in Ethiopia, including the Somali-speaking inhabitants of the Ogaden, cannot be solved by military force. At the same time, he expressed the view that the "struggle for identity" of these people eventually will triumph despite Ethiopian, Soviet and Cuban forces arrayed against them.
Regarding the Somali understanding of the U.S. commitment and obligation in case Somalia is attacked from the outside, Addou said "we regard this as very hypotheical."
He said Somalia is confident it can handle any battle with Ethiopia or any other African country. In the event of a Soviet assault on Somali, which he said appears unlikely, Addou said "it would be up to the United States what decision it will take."