American forces have established a network of outposts in Ethiopia and Kenya centered on a base in Djibouti. The US has created an Africa Command to coordinate military activities. In January, US gunships blasted away at suspected Islamic terrorists in southern Somalia. These forays have continued as an Ethiopian force occupies Mogadishu, the Somali capital, to bolster the provisional government there. The Eritreans, seeing a chance to make trouble, are supplying Islamic insurgents with weapons and military advice. Could Mogadishu become another Baghdad, with Ethiopians playing the part of US troops? The Ethiopians need to withdraw before that happens.

The US can help by putting more pressure on Ethiopia, a de facto ally and the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. It won’t be easy. President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea is a particular problem — authoritarian, increasingly repressive, and not afraid to go it alone, even though his people bear the consequence of isolation and perpetual mobilisation for war. The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea caused around 100,000 deaths, far more than the death toll from terrorism. A settlement between the two countries will make it easier to form a common front against the stateless sources of violence in the Horn.