It appears that the war that began on 4 November 2020 has reached a turning point.
The Tigrayans have launched an offensive eastwards to cut the road from Addis to the sea at Djibouti.
It is a high-risk strategy, since Abiy Ahmed is throwing everything he has at the war, with militia from Sidamo, Amhara, Oromo and Somali regions being sent to the fronts.
But these ethnic militia are not disciplined, trained troops and there are some reports that they are defecting almost as soon as they reach the battlefield in Tigray.
On the offensive
Instead of going on the defensive since re-capturing Mekelle on 28 June, the Tigrayans have been on the offensive. Their first thrust was southwards, towards Amhara territory. Now they are pushing eastwards, towards Djibouti.
A defensive strategy would have meant accepting that the Tigrayan people would remain reliant on the meagre supplies allowed in by the government in Addis – far too little to stave off a famine.
As the United Nations pointed out on Monday,
“Inside Tigray, access is currently possible to areas that were previously hard to reach, with an estimated 75 per cent of people who need assistance (4 million out of 5.2 million people in need) now in zones where humanitarian operations can take place, compared with 30 per cent in May.
Humanitarian stocks, however, are rapidly depleting inside Tigray, with road access only possible through Afar Region with heavy control by regional and federal authorities.”
The TDF’s strategy will stretch their supply lines and push them into unfamiliar territory.
However, if successful it will not only mean that the Tigray Defence Forces will have captured territory, they will also have taken supplies they badly need as they advance.
If it works then the Tigrayans will probably be in a position to dictate terms since:
1. They will have inflicted major defeats on the Eritrean and Ethiopian military
2. They will have cut Ethiopia’s main link to the outside world
3. They will have defeated the ethnic militia that Addis is now throwing at them.
Will this happen? The Ethiopians still control the skies and have an air-force that could try to cut Tigrayans lines.
We should know in the next few weeks which way this war is going.