Nov 23, 2021 - World

Afghanistan-scarred Biden admin taking no chances in Ethiopia

Ethiopia's House of Peoples' Representatives approves state of emergency, in Addis Ababa on Nov. 4. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images
Ethiopia's House of Peoples' Representatives approves state of emergency, in Addis Ababa on Nov. 4. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is sounding the alarm over the deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia, where the government in Addis Ababa has called on civilians to arm themselves against rebels marching on the capital.

Why it matters: The collapse of Ethiopia — a major African country with a population of 115 million — could cause a massive humanitarian crisis and destabilize the entire region.

In the northern region of Tigray, there have been credible reports of ethnic cleansing and the government using starvation as a weapon of war. Now the Tigrayan rebels are on the offensive and reportedly within 200 miles of the capital.

  • The State Department has issued multiple advisories and held a series of briefings to hammer the same message: There will be no Kabul-style airlift, and U.S. citizens need to get out now while commercial flights are still available.
  • Non-emergency staff at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa was ordered to leave in early November. The embassy has not been fully evacuated, but that could change in instant.

What they're saying: “There are no plans to fly the U.S. military into Ethiopia to facilitate evacuations or replicate the contingency effort we recently undertook in Afghanistan, which was a unique situation for many reasons," a senior State Department official told reporters in a briefing Monday.

Between the lines: The Tigray People's Liberation Front, an ethnic nationalist group that ruled Ethiopia until 2018, is no Taliban.

  • But the potential for street violence, arbitrary detentions, supply shortages, and lessons from Afghanistan are driving the Biden administration to take extra precautions.
Go deeper