Are U.S. advisors helping the Ethiopians in Somalia?

Somalia AA-gun How long can it be before a major newspaper splashes an exclusive on U.S. intelligence or military support for Ethiopia's offensive in Somalia?

"Officially, we haven't put anybody in Somalia," a U.S. military spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

But U.S. officials have declined to condemn the Ethiopian action, and an NSC spokesman said Ethiopia has "genuine security concerns" in Somalia. The New York Times got its hands on the U.S. State Department's internal guidance on the conflict:

Should the press focus on the role of Ethiopia inside Somalia," read a copy of the guidelines that was given to The New York Times by an American official here, "emphasize that this is a distraction from the issue of dialogue between the T.F.I.'s and Islamic courts and shift the focus back to the need for dialogue." T.F.I. is an abbreviation for the weak transitional government in Somalia.

"The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia," the guidance said.

Senior US military officers conferred recently with Ethiopian leaders. What's more, top U.S. officials are keenly interested in several terrorism suspects thought to be in Somalia. I would be shocked if, despite official denials, a few CIA or special operations folks weren't tagging along as Ethiopian-backed forces entered Mogadishu.

UPDATE: The anti-Islamist forces have taken the Somali capital and declared themselves in charge.


The most popular stories on foreignpolicy.com in 2006

'Tis the season of retrospectives. Below are the most popular stories on our website in 2006 (excluding searches for Britney Spears, of course).

Photo Essay: End of the Line January/February 2006
Where do ships go to die? Thirty years ago, Europe's shipyards took apart most of the world's supertankers. But rising costs eventually sent much of the ship-breaking industry to Bangladesh. In just two months, teams of workers will reduce a 240,000-ton tanker to scrap metal using crowbars, hammers, and their bare hands.

The Failed States Index - May/June 2006
Democracy may be spreading, but is the world more stable? In the second-annual Failed States Index, FP and the Fund for Peace track the countries on the edge of collapse.

The Return of Patriarchy - March/April 2006
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best. By Phillip Longman

Wide Angle: The State at Work - July/August 2006
Running a poor country has never been a tougher job. Civil servants are asked to do the people’s work with very little, sometimes with nothing at all. They see to it that the job gets done—or grinds to a halt. Meet the bureaucrats. By Jan Banning

The Dark Side of China’s Rise - March/April 2006
China’s economic boom has dazzled investors and captivated the world. But beyond the new high-rises and churning factories lie rampant corruption, vast waste, and an elite with little interest in making things better. Forget political reform. China’s future will be decay, not democracy. By Minxin Pei

What Makes a Muslim Radical? - Web Exclusive
A new Gallup World Poll of more than 9,000 interviews in nine Muslim countries reveals that Muslim radicals have much more in common with their moderate brethren than is often assumed. If the West wants to reach the extremists and empower the moderate Muslim majority, it must first recognize who it’s up against. By John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed

The Terrorism Index - July/August 2006
Is the United States winning the war on terror? Not according to more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy hands. They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack.

The World’s Marked Men - Web Exclusive
Assassinations have sparked major upheavals throughout history. FP looks at leaders who are at risk today, and what might follow if they fall. By Daniel Byman

David’s Friend Goliath - January/February 2006
The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone. By Michael Mandelbaum

Cut and Run? You Bet. - May/June 2006
Why America must get out of Iraq now. By Lt. Gen. William E. Odom