Eritrea troops planning offensive in Tigray

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A report published by the European Union on the current situation in Ethiopia paints a picture of a troubled nation with a myriad of challenges, something which could take several months before a peaceful resolution is reached.

In the report, which has since been leaked, the European Union observes that “there seems to be small to no appetite to start negotiating at this point: both sides are convinced that they will be able to achieve a decisive military victory within the coming months.”

While fighting between Tigray Defense Forces [TDF] and ENDF/Amhara Forces continued on several fronts, the Oromo Liberation Army [OLA] extended occupation of rural areas in the Oromia Region and gained control over some critical roads.

But the most disappointing bit of the conflict is the reported deployment of Eritrea troops to Western Tigray, just months after their purported withdrawal. Previously, the international community condemned their presence in Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia.

“Eritrea reportedly sent reinforcements to Western Tigray and might be preparing a new offensive. There is no more food available in Tigray, and the humanitarian needs in other regions are also growing fast,” reads the report. “The repression against ethnic Tigrayans in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia is continuing. PM Abiy Ahmed visited Asmara and to Turkey where he signed a military cooperation agreement.”

General Filipos Woldeyohannes alias Filipos, the Eritrea Defense Forces [EDF] boss, has been subjected to designations by the Department of Treasury in the US over alleged atrocities in the Tigray region. On Tuesday, Asmara defended him, accusing the US of “intimidations and blackmail.”

In a summarized document, European Union said TDF and ENDF/Amhara Forces continued on several fronts; OLA managed to occupy large parts of the rural areas in Oromia, including gaining control over some critical roads. It will require a lot of security resources from the Government of Ethiopia [GoE] to manage the geographical expansion of OLA territory and regain control over the occupied areas, reads the document.

Some analysts say that Eritrea is preparing a counter-offensive from the North and from the West against TDF to force the Tigrayans to withdraw troops from the current war theatres in Amhara. Other analysts point out that Eritrea might be preparing for a TDF offensive into Eritrea, which is anticipated to start after the rainy season [by the end of September].

Sources close to the conflict have confided to The Garowe Online that Eritrea troops have been making movements in Afar in preparation for an offensive in Tigray. On August 18, PM, Abiy Ahmed was secretly in Eritrea where the offensive in Tigray was widely discussed, sources added.

Eritrea has remained mum over the accusations, instead choosing to keep off the conflict by staying away from the media, despite the reported presence of her troops in the country. The Eritrea troops first entered Ethiopia in January 2021 to act as reinforcement to ENDF.

The GoE continues stressing that no negotiation with TDF will be possible unless the latter stops fighting and withdraw from the Amhara region. Both sides are convinced that they will obtain a decisive military victory within the coming months, forcing the other side to make necessary concessions in a possible future negotiation.

Ethiopia did not loosen restrictions on humanitarian access to Tigray. While continue pledging unfettered humanitarian access, the reality created on the ground is different – as experienced by the Delegation while trying to obtain flight permissions for the Humanitarian Air Bridge to Mekelle.

In Turkey, it’s where he signed a military cooperation agreement. In all likelihood, the PM was discussing the procurement of drone technology which – in the eyes of the Ethiopian PM – could hand a decisive military advantage to the ENDF. Sources privy to the matter claim Turkish drones have since been deployed to Addis Ababa.

During the week of August 14th-20th, the report notes, fighting between TDF and ENDF/Amhara forces continued on at least four fronts in the Amhara Region: Debark [road from Tigray border to Gondar], Sekota [road from Tigray border to Lalibela], Debre Tabor [road from Weldia to Bahar Dar] and Winchale [road from Weldia to Dessie]. Several claims and counter-claims were made about the occupation of towns, with the overall trend still indicating a further advance of TDF forces more profound into the Amhara Region.

Furthermore, ENDF launched a counter-offensive from Afar into Tigray, launching attacks on the TDF Eastern flank. Fighting was reported near Chifra [Afar] and Mehoni [Tigray]. Over the past few days, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen visited several places in Amhara close to the front lines. He is the first member of the Government known to visit areas with active fighting since the start of the conflict.

Several universities in Amhara Region have started organizing basic military training programs for their staff and students. OLA reported having taken control of several rural areas in Oromia and Amhara, reads the report.

After the announcement of its alliance with TDF, more focus was put on the Oromo Liberation Army. While initial assessments showed some doubts about the OLA’s numerical strength and military capacities, they have made remarkable progress over the past weeks in controlling several rural areas and cutting essential roads.

In Western Oromia, OLA controls several of the rural areas of the four “Wellega” zones, as well as the main roads around the town of Nekemte. In Southern Oromia, OLA controls rural regions of the Guji Zone and managed to establish checkpoints on the main road between Addis Ababa and the Kenyan border. In the North Shoa Zone of Northern Oromia, OLA took control of rural areas near the town of Kuyu and briefly occupied the city itself.

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