Ethiopian PM Departs For Frontlines As US Says “No Expectation” Of Military Evacuations

The United States State Department says that U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should leave via commercial airline flights out of Addis Ababa while they are still available, with officials saying that there are no plans for the U.S. military to deploy to Ethiopia to facilitate an evacuation.

Saying that the Kabul evacuation was an “unique situation for many reasons”, a State Department official said on Monday that:

“There should be no expectation, particularly after we have issued so many warnings that advise departing immediately, that the U.S. will be able to facilitate evacuations via military or commercial aircraft in a non-permissive environment, including Ethiopia.”

The State Department had issued the warnings since early November, amidst multiple battlefield reverses inflicted on forces loyal to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Non-emergency US government personnel and their family members were ordered to depart the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, due to the risk of “armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages”. While the Embassy remains operational and is prioritizing emergency consular services, officials urge Americans requiring assistance to leave Ethiopia to contact the embassy immediately, warning that “we cannot predict when and if conditions might change”.

Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeff Feltman said on Tuesday that he sensed a “much greater willingness” to discuss a possible deescalation and negotiated ceasefire process to end the fighting during his trip to the Ethiopian capital. However, he added that he was worried that “the military developments on the ground are moving more rapidly than we’ve been able to get the diplomatic process to move.”

Abiy had announced on Monday that he would be personally leading pro-Addis troops at the frontlines of fighting against an alliance of rebel groups, with the state-owned Fana news network announcing on Wednesday that Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen was now acting government head following Abiy’s departure for the battlefield. While Abiy is said to be joined by Olympians Haile Gebrselassie and Feyisa Lilesa, there has been no independent confirmation of their whereabouts or their activities.