Before the outbreak of the conflict in Tigray last November, the Ethiopian Federal Army was considered one of the best in the world, the US point of reference in the Horn of Africa for the War on Terror and the main contributor to the African Union peacekeeping missions. Today, however, it seems to have been militarily defeated, as indicated by the calls to arms of citizens and former soldiers a few weeks ago.
The TPLF, on the other hand, has once again shown itself to be a military force of great resilience and agility: after the first month of fighting in which it lost all positions, it switched to a guerrilla strategy and after only six months returned to conventional warfare, beginning an advance that stopped 300 km from the capital.
It seems, however, that the TPLF has tried 12 attacks on the city of Mille without success and that the goal to strangle Addis Ababa through an encirclement is more and more distant every day.
However, it seems that out of the 20 divisions of the army, 10, or 5,000 soldiers each, have been destroyed by the TPLF with about 10,000 soldiers killed and an unknown number of prisoners. It seems however that the TPLF itself has suffered heavy losses, Ann Fitz-Gerald a Canadian security analyst, states this as it appears that the Tigrinyas have used “human waves” to gain positions and increase their bargaining power for negotiations. However, it seems that “human waves” have also been used, according to Alex de Waal, by the federal army and the Amhara militias even if with little success.
The military situation therefore indicates that the conflict is stalled as the army lacks manpower and the TPLF is unable to proceed with its advance. None of these news has yet received official confirmation.
Prof. De Waal goes on to say that the Ethiopian government faces “a military defeat, but the TPLF cannot claim victory because this must be political”, as “they need the support and cooperation of a sufficient number of political actors, which they do not have at present” and therefore he foresees negotiations as the next stage of the conflict. Of the same opinion is Samuel Ghebhrehiwet, the Tigrinya editor of the BBC and former Eritrean guerrilla for the EPLF, who stated that “the TPLF wants to put pressure on the government to negotiate. I don’t think they will go into Addis Ababa. They are very unpopular there.”
However, there is a crack in this picture of the TPLF having an advantage over the federal government. The news, from Sunday, November 21, is that a drone conducted an attack on a building in which there was a prominent TPLF member. The identity of the target is not yet known, but an official statement from Getachew Reda, the TPLF spokesman, is expected soon. Some rumors even claim that the person could be Tigray’s president, Debretsion Gebremichael, which could change the TPLF’s position significantly. The question remains, however, unchanged: given the situation will the conflict continue or will we move towards negotiations?