According to a report from Reuters, the US believes Eritrean soldiers have entered the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) on November 4th. The TPLF has a history of fighting Eritrean forces on Ethiopia’s northern border.
When Abiy came into office in 2018, his reforms gave the TPLF much less power in the government. Abiy also signed a peace deal with Eritrea, ending a decades-old border dispute.
Since Eritrea and Abiy both see the TPLF as an enemy, Eritrea has been suspected of helping Abiy in his Tigray operation. The TPLF made the accusation early on and even fired missiles at Eritrea’s capital in retaliation. Since phone and internet service has been cut in Tigray, reports are near impossible to confirm, but both US and UN officials claim Eritrean soldiers are in Tigray.
A US source and five regional diplomats told Reuters that the US assessed Eritrea was involved. Sources told Bloomberg that UN security teams evaluating the situation observed troops wearing Eritrean uniforms in Tigray. For their part, Eritrea has denied the claim, calling it “propaganda.” Abiy also denied the presence of Eritrean soldiers and accused the TPLF of making fake uniforms.
When the fighting first started in November, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement where he appeared to take Abiy’s side.
On November 28th, Abiy claimed the government seized Tigray’s capital Mekelle and declared victory in the campaign. But the TPLF denied Abiy’s claim and said the war was far from over. It is estimated that thousands have been killed in the conflict so far, and at least 49,000 refugees fled to Sudan.