61. Paper Prepared in the Department of Defense1


1. Current Military Situation

A. Somalis continue to hold some 80 to 90 percent of the Ogaden Region.

B. Ethiopians on the offensive and have driven Somali forces back in the Northern Sector.

C. Ethiopian military successes are likely to continue.

[Page 147]

2. Possible Outcomes to the Ogaden Conflict

A. Outcome A:

Somali forces driven from Ogaden, first in the North (2–6 months) and then in the South (six months or longer). Ethiopians do not cross Somali border.

B. Outcome B:

Somali forces driven from Ogaden in Northern Sector and Ethiopians invade northern Somalia, seize a large area, and call for Somali withdrawal from the southern Ogaden in exchange for Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia.

C. Outcome C:

Cease-fire arranged under UN/OAU auspices and with UN/OAU observer force to supervise withdrawal of Somali forces from Ogaden as preliminary condition for joint Somali/Ethiopian talks on political solution.

(1) Ethiopians would seek to limit their concessions to granting a measure of “self-determination” to Somali nomads in Ogaden under Ethiopian confederation;

(2) Somalis would seek full self-determination for an independent Ogaden nation.

3. Current Preferences of Players

A. Ethiopia:

Addis prefers Outcome A—military solution achieved within Ethiopian borders. Given the increasing levels of Soviet and Cuban aid, this outcome appears probable. Ethiopia would maintain its sovereign right as a nation seeking to repel invaders and inviting Soviet/Cuban aid to achieve that goal. Should Ethiopian forces cross the border, however, this argument by Addis would be less defensible.

B. Somalia:

Outcome C(2) is probably the only solution acceptable to President Siad, who would prefer a military defeat (e.g., a “retreat” under military pressure) and the expulsion of Somali forces from the Ogaden (which he can pin on Soviet/Cuban intervention) rather than any concession to continued Ethiopian domination of the Ogaden Somalia, whether or not they were granted greater local autonomy. Any negotiated solution other than C(2) would be viewed as a political defeat for Somalia and for Siad personally, who would then be vulnerable to the charge of leading Somalia into a war which led to a formal surrender to Ethiopia of Somali claims in the Ogaden.

C. Soviet Union:

Outcome A—a military solution achieved within Ethiopian boundaries, would be the most advantageous to the Soviets, who could con[Page 148]tinue to justify its aid to Ethiopia as the aggrieved nation. Soviet support for an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, whether legitimized by military tactics or not, would turn African opinion against Moscow and could bring Arab and Iranian intervention, escalating the conflict and possibly sanctioning UN intervention. If the majority of African states were opposed to the Soviets’ role in any Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, then the Soviets would not want to risk UN consideration of the matter.

D. United States:

Outcome C(1)—a negotiated solution, which reconciles the competing principles of “territorial integrity”—supported unequivocally by the OAU (Somalia is the only dissenting nation)—with our less vigorous support for the right of self-determination under the UN Charter, is the solution sought by the United States, first in its backing of the OAU initiative led by Nigeria, and more recently, the UN initiative. Our recent UN initiative seeking UN sanction for a negotiated solution has been resisted by the principal actors for a number of reasons:

(1) The African nations are opposed because (a) they are not convinced that their OAU effort has failed; and (b) because such an initiative might show African divisiveness (i.e., a pro-Western vs. pro-Soviet alignment) at the UN.

(2) The Ethiopians have resisted because (a) such an initiative might result in a call for a cease-fire before their military victories are secure; and (b) might focus world attention on the rights of the Ogaden peoples for self-determination.

(3) The Soviets are opposed because (a) they might have to veto a resolution which calls for a peaceful resolution to the dispute and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Ogaden (including Soviet and Cuban); and (b) would inhibit the consolidation of their position in Ethiopia, which at present is based upon their military commitment to help Ethiopia regain its Ogaden territory by force of arms.

(4) The Somalis appear to be opposed because a UN Resolution might call for the withdrawal of their troops from the Ogaden and the renunciation of Somali claims to the territory.

4. Discussion

What solution serves US interests best and how can it be achieved?

A. What actions might we take to strengthen our position in Somalia? In Ethiopia? In Djibouti?

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Harold Brown Papers, Box 8, Horn of Africa. Secret. This paper was forwarded to McGiffert, all DASDs, Slocombe, Kramer, and Hanson on February 23 under a covering memorandum from Thomas. He wrote, “The attached briefing memo is for the discussion on the Horn of Africa which will take place tomorrow, February 24, in Mr. McGiffert’s office at 1000. The first three items in the memo are for your reading prior to the meeting. This will provide material for the discussion that is given on page 3.” (Ibid.)