25. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to President Carter 1

[Omitted here are items unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]

The Situation in the Ogaden. The Somalis now appear to control about two-thirds of the Ogaden. Given existing Somali military deployments, the three major garrison towns remaining in Ethiopian hands are in no imminent danger, although Somali insurgent forces continue their efforts to cut off communications among them. However, should regular troops based in northern Somalia move in force across the border with the objective of taking the towns, all three would probably fall after a period.

The loss of the three towns would not preclude an eventual Ethiopian countermove, but it would delay it and make it more difficult. Politically, it could provide an occasion for a political move by the Somalis, such as the formal declaration of an “Ogaden Republic” by the insurgents or even an annexation by Somalia. The fall of the towns probably would not in itself be likely to cause the overthrow of Mengistu; it would weaken his authority, but his rivals appear fully as committed to try to hold the Ogaden as is he.

At your request, we are studying the consequences of a U.S. decision not to supply arms to Somalia, taking into account the extremely fluid situation in the Horn, the evidence that the Ethiopians are becoming disaffected with the Soviets as arms suppliers, and what we can discern of President Siad’s intentions toward the Soviets.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 12, State Department Evening Reports, 8/77. Secret. In the upper right corner, Carter initialed and wrote, “Warren.”
  2. Carter wrote in the left margin, “ok—I’m not sure what we should do—best to minimize military aid, probably.” According to a memorandum from Christopher to Carter, August 9, Department officials explained to a visiting Somali military team on August 8 that the United States would have to delay any arms assistance until stability had returned to the Ogaden. (Ibid.)