Abiy Ahmed on December 8 announced in Ethiopia that after “the completion of the first phase of Operation National Unity for Diversity” he returned, momentarily, to his office. The counter-offensive operated by the federal government, which largely echoes the tone of the Prosperity Party’s rhetoric, seems to have recaptured the two strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha and Abiy also stated that “the fight is not over. We still have areas to liberate.”
However, this news does not resonate with what the TPLF claims, which is not surprising in a war given the importance of propaganda but, given the paucity of information filtering out of Ethiopia, is important to consider the situation on the ground from the outside. The TPLF through the twitter account of its spokesman Getachew Reda and that of Martin Plaut, a long-time analyst of the Horn of Africa and formerly a BBC journalist, claimed to have recaptured Lalibela and Gashena, which have now changed hands 4 and 5 times since the beginning of the conflict. The most important news, which still lacks confirmation, is that the TDF has neutralized as many as 80,000 troops during this counter-offensive.
These forces, composed of Fano, Amhara militias, government forces and Amhara Special Forces, had to give way to Tigrinya forces during the counter-offensive to retake Lalibela and Gashena. A tweet by Getachew Reda could be indicative then of how much the ‘strategic retreat’ of the Tigrinyas could really be such and not just a statement to cover a hasty and disorderly retreat: he in fact claimed that an unspecified unit marched 150km in two days and helped the Tigrinya forces to overwhelm several contingents of the federal forces.
In this sense can be placed the long statement of the Tigrayan president Debretsion Gebremichael released on December 7, which among other things announced that the strategic retreat was not hasty and that the Tigrayan forces were already planning a similar possibility because the advances they had made in the previous months had lengthened and made very vulnerable their supply lines.
So, it seems that the advance of the federal forces, which seems to have been greatly helped by Turkish, Iranian and Chinese drones, has already exhausted its propulsive thrust. After two weeks in which it seemed that the federal forces had already regained control of the situation, it seems that the “strategic retreat” of the Tigrinya forces was really such and consequent to the attack to its supply lines.
Such news are not completely confirmed, however, the stalemate of which we spoke last week seems to be already unlocked and that this conflict, compared to the previous one, is endowed with a dynamism such as to see changes of front week after week.