US President Joe Biden is putting all his political and diplomatic capital at stake for a single objective- pulverising a poor, developing African country called Ethiopia. With threats of intervention and apparent support to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a separatist group that wants to sever the Tigray region out of Ethiopia, the US tried to overpower the Abiy Ahmed regime in Ethiopia.
Biden also tried to support the TPLF by launching an invasion into Ethiopia via Djibouti and instigating Sudan to launch a war against Ethiopia in order to create a two-front war situation for the Ethiopian troops. Now, the Biden administration has come up with a new plan- abandon the TPLF for the time being and achieve the dream of destabilising Ethiopia via Sudan.
Biden administration abandons TPLF:
The first signs of the Biden administration abandoning TPLF became clear last month itself, during a briefing with U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman on the Ongoing Situation in Ethiopia. Feltman said, “I want to be clear: The basis for talks to lead to de-escalation and a negotiated ceasefire exists. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy told me again on Sunday that his top priority is to get the Tigrayan Defense Forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the TDF and the TPLF, out of the lands that they have occupied in the states of Amhara and Afar and get them back into Tigray. We share that objective.”
Feltman’s statement made it clear that at least for the time being, the US doesn’t support the TPLF’s ambition of overpowering the Abiy Ahmed regime in Ethiopia and taking over the capital city of Addis Ababa. This made sense as the Tigray tribe accounts for only 7% of Ethiopia’s total population. On the other hand, Omoro and Amhara tribes are much bigger, constituting 35 percent and 28 percent of the African country’s population respectively. The Biden administration would possibly have no justification as to why it should allow the TPLF that represents the Tigray tribe to take over the entire country.
The US itself is also on the backfoot. It wanted to use its base in Djibouti to launch attacks on Ethiopian forces and assist the TPLF in its endeavour to capture the capital city of Addis Ababa. But Djibouti denied the US to use its territories for assault on other countries leaving Washington embarrassed. Therefore, the US simply doesn’t have the wherewithal to support the TPLF in its ambition of capturing Addis Ababa.
The US couldn’t support the TPLF against an Ethiopia-Eritrea military alliance and this is why the TPLF hasn’t managed to achieve its objective. As such, the US will not give up permanently on the TPLF and will wait for an opportunity to support the separatist group more openly.
The US turns to Sudan:
The US has temporarily sidelined the TPLF, not because of any policy reasons but due to practical factors. However, this doesn’t mean that Biden has given up on his Ethiopia objective. He still wants to overpower Ethiopia and is turning to Sudan for the purpose.
There is an entire history of tribal enmities at the bordering regions of Ethiopia and Sudan, with tribes like Amhara, Omoro and Tigray having a history of conflict dating back decades. As such, Sudan provides a strategically advantageous position and can force Ethiopia into an uncomfortable two-front war situation if the TPLF also ups the ante in the near future. The Biden administration is shamelessly capitalising on these traditional tribal conflicts.
Sudan faced a coup that was unusually very short-lived, and if the reports are to be believed as soon as the military and the government reached an understanding the coup was reversed. While the exact translation between the two parties cannot be specified, it is a fact that the policy of Sudan towards Ethiopia changed leading to skirmishes and an increase in humanitarian assistance to the TPLF. Things became clear with the sudden US appointment of an Ambassador to Sudan after 25 years, and the military clashes that followed between Sudan and Ethiopia.
This is the definition of a transactional relationship, as the military intervention has most probably forced this change of heart. While the Sudanese military will get weapons and equipment from the US, Washington will be able to ensure that the Ethiopian government weakened, and subsequently send the country and the region into a never-ending cycle of tribal civil war.
Clashes between Sudan and Ethiopia:
Of late, clashes have broken out between Sudanese and Ethiopian troops, amidst domestic unrest in the two countries. In a statement on November 27, the Sudanese army claimed that some Ethiopian troops and its affiliated militias attacked Barakat Noreen town in the al-Fashaqa border area. The Sudanese army alleged that Ethiopian troops wanted to intimidate farmers, destroy the agricultural harvest, and find their way into Sudanese territory.
In the ensuing clashes, six Sudanese troops were killed, as per the Sudanese Army. However, local media reports pegged the number of casualties at 20. Passions are now running high between Sudan and Ethiopia. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander-in-chief of the Sudanese armed forces claimed that the al-Fashqa border area with Ethiopia is “purely Sudanese land”. Burhan inspected the area where the armed clashes took place, and the Sudanese Army also posted a video in which Burhan can be seen doing the V sign in front of his soldiers while vowing to not give up Sudanese territory.
The al-Fashqa area is at the root of a decades-old conflict between Khartoum and Addis Ababa. Last year, Sudan expelled thousands of Ethiopian farmers while arguing that the area is located within the Sudanese borders. Ethiopia had however rejected the Sudanese claims and the ensuing clashes between the troops of the two countries had claimed dozens of lives on both sides.
Now, the US is further exploiting the decades-old conflict in a bid to pile pressure on Ethiopia and somehow force a regime change in Addis Ababa. For Biden, overpowering Ethiopia and its ally, Eritrea is a part of his strategy to shore up American influence in the strategically crucial Horn of Africa. Therefore, the US President is trying all possible tricks to achieve his geopolitical goals even if it means throwing Sudan and Ethiopia into a perpetual state of warfare.