Ethiopia: Fixing To Fight Another Border War


October 29, 2007: It looks like the UN is seriously considering disbanding the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. If that's the case, it will amount to a diplomatic admission that the dispute over the Badme area has reached a complete impasse. It remains to be seen if the UN observer mission will be withdrawn from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ). As it is, the observers already operate under severe restrictions in the TSZ, most of the restrictions imposed by Eritrea. That noted, Eritrea agreed, after the ceasefire in 2000 to accept the EEBC's binding decision on border demarcation – and Ethiopia didn't. Ethiopia justifies its position by insisting that Eritrea supports guerrilla movements inside Ethiopia, particularly ethnic-Somali rebels in the Ogaden but also guerrilla groups in northern Ethiopia. Eritrea is now accusing Ethiopia of planning to launch an invasion.

October 28, 2007: There is some uncertainty over the extent of Eritrea's military capabilities. Ethiopia outguns Eritrea in terms of military equipment and manpower. The issue is whether or not the Ethiopian military is "too stretched" in its commitments. Ethiopia still has military forces in Somalia and recently committed 5,000 troops to serve in a peacekeeping mission in Darfur (Sudan). Eritrea knows how to count "bullets and noses" (equipment and numbers of soldiers), but Eritrea could conclude that Ethiopia is vulnerable to a "serious probe" on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. This scenario has a lot of risks, but the goal would be to bloody Ethiopian troops on the border, gain ten to 20 kilometers of territory, then seek a UN-imposed ceasefire. Eritrea would be betting that Ethiopia lacks the immediate tactical reserves to respond to the Eritrean thrust and that it would take at least three to four weeks for Ethiopia to bring sufficient troops into the area for a counter-attack. During that time Eritrea would pull all of the diplomatic levers to get a ceasefire, including arguing that all it did with its attack was enforce the EEBC's "binding decision."

October 27, 2007: Ethiopian military units in Somalia battled an Islamist force in Mogadishu. Ten people reportedly died in a series of firefights that involved heavy machine gun fire and artillery shelling. Ethiopia appears to have moved 20 tanks (a company-plus) backed by armored cars, into Mogadishu late on October 26th.

October 23, 2007: The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) claimed that its fighters had killed at least 250 Ethiopian soldiers in several recent firefights in eastern Ethiopia. The ONLF claimed that it killed 140 soldiers in a battle that began on October 21. Ethiopia denied the claim of "mass casualties" caused by the ONLF.

Eritrea claimed that it had arrested several members of an anti-Eritrean government group that had planned to assassinate Eritrea's chief of security.

October 22, 2007: Eritrea's main opposition group, the Eritrean Peoples Democratic Front (EPDF), claimed that the Eritrean government had moved an additional 25,000 soldiers up to the Ethiopian border. The EPDF said that two divisions, identified as the 19th and 13th Divisions, had reached the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and deployed along it. Again, this is a claim by the opposition group. There has not been (so far) an independent confirmation of the claim.


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