Ethiopia’s premier Abiy Ahmed appeared on November 26 in a video on local media, commenting from the Afar front on the progress of the federal forces’ offensive. The Prime Minister announced the imminent recapture of the towns of Kasa Gita, Burqa and Chifra, emphasizing the tones of the resumption of the federal offensive and crediting ENDF forces with the victories on the ground. No mention was made by the premier to the contribution of the militias of the Afar regional state in the operations, fueling a widespread chorus of controversy that has also affected much of the diaspora community.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed then appeared again in a video on November 30, inviting all armed groups fighting alongside the TPLF to surrender immediately. A few days later, on December 4, some media outlets close to the federal government showed images depicting numerous civilians apparently surrendering to the ENDF, although the same video were the subject of numerous doubts on the social media network, which legitimately disputed the appearance of the prisoners shown in the images. Among the many critical judgments on the veracity of the images were those saying that the images were not showing showed not TDF fighters but rather the many Tigrinya civilians rounded up by the government in the capital and in the federal states of Oromia and Amhara.
The Tigrinya authorities of the TPLF, on the other hand, have denounced several times during the last week the intensification of aerial bombardments, both through the use of armed drones and air force aircrafts. On November 26 the capital of Tigray, Mekelle, was hit by federal drones without causing casualties, while on December 1st an airstrike conducted with the use of fighter-bombers by the Air Force have severely damaged a dam on the Tekeze River, literally zeroing the production capacity of electricity in most of the regional state of Tigray.
On the military operations front, the last week has been characterized by a reversal of the offensive capacity of Tigray’s soldiers, forced to retreat both on the Afar and Amhara fronts, where – at least for the moment – the push towards the encirclement of the capital Addis Ababa seems to have been interrupted.
On November 28, ENDF forces and militias from the Afar regional state re-conquered the town of Chifra, and subsequently those of Kasa Gita and Burqa, re-establishing de facto territorial control over the border between the Afar regional state and that of Amhara, preventing TDF forces from continuing their attempt to conquer the town of Mile and the freeway junction with Djibouti.
On December 1st the Amhara militias and their allied forces of Fano, together with the federal forces of the ENDF, launched an attack on the city of Gashena, located along the B22 regional road in the direction of Woldiya. On the same day the city of Lalibela was reconquered, thanks to the decisive role of the Fano militias.
During the same day, with the help of drones and federal air force, offensives were also launched in the southern offshoots of the areas under Tigrinya control in the Amhara region, with the recapture of the areas of Debre Shina, Sheba Robit, Senbete, Chefa Robit and Kemise.
In this way, most of the Tigrinya conquests of the last month along the course of the A2 highway south of Komblocha were thwarted, although territorial control appears at present rather fragmented. The TDF forces have been militarily defeated in most of the urban areas in which they were engaged by the ENDF forces, Amhara and Fano, but they still seem to exercise relatively extensive control in rural areas, where sporadic firefights are ongoing.
At the end of an intense and dramatic day of fighting, the TPLF government issued on December 1st a statement where it tried to minimize the course of the ongoing conflict, defining the territorial losses as a “repositioning”, and accusing the federal press of spreading fake news.
It has been a rather weak attempt to prevent the spreading of the news concerning the real outcome of the day’s clashes, which ended with a resounding defeat of the TDF forces along most of the southern front.
What certainly made the difference in the conduct of the military operations of the federal forces was the aid received by the United Arab Emirates and, above all, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 drones, which ensured the ENDF, Amhara and Fano forces the undisputed capacity of air support to the units on the ground. A large part of the Tigrinya’s losses, both in terms of men and vehicles, can be attributed to the ability of the drones to strike deep into the lines of defense, forcing them to retreat rapidly, which resulted in the need to abandon large quantities of weapons and ammunition on the ground.
The advance and consolidation of the federal, Amhara and Fano forces continued on December 2 and 3, thus reducing the area under the control of the TDF up to the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha, which now appear subject to the threat of an offensive by the federal forces.
The ENDF offensive of the first week of December has thus determined a heavy defeat for the TDF forces, which must now abandon the hypothesis of an attack or an encirclement of the capital, as well as its economic strangulation through the interruption of the main communication routes to the regional state of Afar and Djibouti.
Although it is still too early to evaluate the overall state of equilibrium on the ground, the counter-offensive of the federal government and its allied militias has certainly recorded a significant change in the overall balance of the dynamics of the conflict. The ability of the ENDF forces to sustain this advantage is currently conditioned on the one hand by the possibility of constantly receiving the flow of military aid that sustains their offensive capabilities, and on the other by the simultaneous inability of the TDF forces to counter the threat represented by Turkish-made drones, which have constituted the real turning point in the conduct of military operations by government forces.