It’s unclear what timeline one can expect for the conflict’s resolution considering its complexity and the foreign support that the TPLF has received.  —Andrew Korybko

It’s unclear what timeline one can expect for the conflict’s resolution considering its complexity and the foreign support that the TPLF has received. —Andrew Korybko

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Read Time:18 Minute, 39 Second

Shahzada Rahim of the Radical Outlook Interviewed the renowned America-Russia expert and geopolitical Commentator Mr. Andrew Korybko.

Special Edition Volume 1

The ongoing Civil War in Ethiopia Image © The Radical Outlook

The ethnic turf between the EPRDF Coalition and the TPLF soared when the incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power. Soon after assuming the Premiership, Mr. Abiy Ahmed attempted to reform the old party setup of the EPRDF by merging its coalition partners into a new multi-ethnic Prosperity Party. Mr. Abiy’s reformation policy angered the leadership of the TPLF, who began opposing his new party policy and thus, started a military campaign against the government. In 2020, the civil War situation started swallowing the whole country, which turned violent last month, when the Ethiopian government decided to use Airpower to fight the TPLF separatists. The United Nations warned the world about the second humanitarian crisis after Syria due to the worsening situation in the country.

In order to understand the ongoing situation in Ethiopia, Shahzada Rahim of The Radical Outlook interviewed Mr. Andrew Korybko, a renowned American-Russian geopolitical expert and commentator. Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. He specializes in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s Belt & Road Initiative, and Hybrid Warfare. His other areas of focus include South Asian affairs and the US’ recent restoration of hegemonic influence in Latin America.


Horn of Africa: From war to geopolitical chaos

Thank You Mr. Andrew Korybko for joining me at the Radical Outlook for the interview. I am honored to have you.


  1. Shahzada Rahim (SR): First of all, thank you Mr. Andrew Korybko for joining me on the radical outlook. Can you please briefly tell me; what is going on in Ethiopia? Can we say that Ethiopia is following the Somalian Path with its war with TPLF?

Andrew Korybko (AK): Thank you for the opportunity to share my insight on this crisis with your audience. In brief, Ethiopia is being victimized by an American Hybrid War aimed at internally partitioning the country through the militant imposition of the Bosnian model through the TPLF, the previously most influential faction of the former ruling party that’s since been designated by Addis Ababa as terrorists. They launched a surprise attack against the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) Northern Command in their native Tigray Region in November 2020 following months of tension with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the direction, scope, and pace of his ambitious socio-economic and political reforms. They also held a regional election a few months prior that was deemed illegal by the federal government after all such votes, including parliamentary elections that were planned at that time, were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The TPLF then said that it considered his continued tenure to be illegitimate.

The US has since tacitly taken the TPLF’s side by putting significant pressure on the internationally recognized Ethiopian government. This was done through intense information warfare alleging that the ENDF were carrying out ethnic cleansing and even genocide in Tigray. Furthermore, the US sanctioned some Ethiopian officials and plans to cut off the country’s free access to the American marketplace by removing it from the “African Growth and Opportunity Act” (AGOA). On top of that, American officials insist that their Ethiopian counterparts treat the TPLF as an equal by holding political talks with it despite that group’s official terrorist designation. It also deserves mentioning that the TPLF immediately invaded the neighboring Afar and Amhara Regions following the ENDF’s unilateral withdrawal from Tigray earlier this summer as part of their unilateral ceasefire that the group rejected. The TPLF has since been accused of serious crimes against humanity including the mass rape and killing of civilians in the occupied regions.

If the US succeeds in either coercing African states to curtail then cut off their ties with China (particularly economic and technological ones), then it can hurt China by proxy. Those countries that don’t submit will then be victimized with their own bespoke forms of Hybrid War customized to most optimally exploit their respective preexisting identity tensions. That’s why it’s so important for all of Africa to rally behind Ethiopia right now.

As for whether Ethiopia is following the Somali path, that doesn’t seem to be an accurate comparison or prediction. Somalia’s troubles are due to its prior dissolution into a patchwork of warlord-dominated regions following the end of the Old Cold War. The country is also struggling to contain Al Shabaab. It’s presently very decentralized and part of its territory, Somaliland, aspires for independence and hasn’t been controlled by the central government for decades. The situation is different in Ethiopia. It’s only the Tigray Region that remains outside the federal government’s control and that’s only been for less than a year. In addition, there are no warlords popping up all across the country. Ethiopia also doesn’t suffer any Al Shabaab-like terrorist threats, only those posed by the TPLF and its allies. The country still has an impressive military that’s pushing back against the terrorists’ advances despite some recent setbacks. There presently isn’t any credible threat of the Ethiopian state dissolving like the Somali one did three decades ago.

2. Shahzada Rahim (SR): As we know that Ethiopia is the second strongest nation in the horn of Africa after Kenya both in the political and economic sphere. But the ongoing civil war between the Tigray’s and the government seems a calm before the storm? How do you see the future of the country in the coming years?

Andrew Korybko (AK): For starters, while some observers describe events there as a “civil war”, the government regards it as a law enforcement operation that gradually morphed into an anti-terrorist campaign. Having clarified that, the ongoing conflict has definitely worsened over the past few months after the TPLF rejected the federal government’s unilateral ceasefire that accompanied the ENDF’s withdrawal from Tigray. The group immediately invaded the neighboring Afar and Amhara Regions and has threatened to march on Addis Ababa, though they’re still some distance away despite Western Mainstream Media’s fearmongering reports that they’ve supposedly encircled the capital.

It’s unclear what timeline one can expect for the conflict’s resolution considering its complexity and the foreign support that the TPLF has received. They’ve been bolstered by corrupt UN officials, the group’s capture of hundreds of UN aid trucks, suspected arms and other forms of military support from Egypt and perhaps even Sudan, and rising American political support. Nevertheless, the ENDF is committed to destroying this terrorist threat and the Ethiopian people are rallying behind them. The kinetic aspect of this conflict will therefore likely intensify in the coming future. As of now, it’s unlikely that PM Abiy will capitulate to US pressure.

3. Shahzada Rahim (SR): Q.3 If we read the history, Ethiopia is the only country in the African continent; which was not colonized by any country. However, despite the absence of colonial roots, why the country is facing a postmodern kind of ethnosociological disruptions?

Andrew Korybko (AK): Ethiopia is an extremely diverse civilization-state which by nature makes it susceptible to Hybrid Warfare. What’s meant by this concept is the external exacerbation of preexisting identity tensions – ethnic, regional, religious, socio-economic, and historical-political – for the purpose of Regime Tweaking (unilateral political concessions), Regime Change (self-explanatory), and/or Regime Reboot (radical constitutional reform that more often than not seeks to replicate the Bosnian model of de facto internally partitioning the targeted country). The naturally occurring tensions between the TPLF and PM Abiy, driven by the group’s selfish desire to return to power at any cost, were taken advantage of by the US and its allies to weaken Ethiopia from within.

I personally agree with this interpretation of events. To your question, yes, Ethiopia has indeed become the center of a rivalry between China and the US, but it must be clarified that China doesn’t regard itself as being in competition with the US since it believes that its investments and overall relations with other countries aren’t at the expense of their ties with the US. As proof of this, China has never pressured any of its partners to curtail and ultimately cut off their ties with the US like the US has done vis-à-vis its partners’ ties with China.

This is being done in order to make an example out of it since the country is the second most populous in Africa, has a proud history of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism, and had hitherto successfully balanced between China and the US. The paradigm change in American strategic thinking that began to occur halfway through Trump’s term resulted in the US perceiving its global competition with China in zero-sum terms. It subsequently sought to pressure even its NATO allies to curtail and ultimately cut off their ties with China, particularly their economic and technological ones. If Ethiopia was allowed to continue successfully balancing between both in mutually beneficial ways aimed at accelerating its economic development (it previously had one of the world’s fastest growth rates prior to the emergence of COVID-19), it could have set an example for all Global South states.

The US feared that outcome because it lacks confidence in its ability to compete with China on a level playing field. Its leaders believe that their country’s influence would gradually decline, which could eventually have political and thus strategic implications over the long term. Instead of accepting that seemingly inevitable scenario, they sought to aggressively change the “rules of the game” through the trade war and subsequent New Cold War with China. In the Ethiopian context, this took the form of supporting the TPLF’s desire to “Bosnify” the country, which would prevent it from serving as a pragmatic example for all other Global South – and especially African – states and thus send a signal to all others that they too might become the next victims of such a US Hybrid War if they don’t fall into line with America’s hegemonic demands to curtail ties with China.

4. Shahzada Rahim (SR): Ethiopia is an important country in the Eastern African region due to its buffer type strategic location and unique democratic governance model. Moreover, the country also hosts headquarter of the African Union but why the African Union is silent and inactive regarding the ongoing war in the country?

Andrew Korybko (AK): The African Union isn’t silent, it’s politically involved in trying to de-escalate tensions there, but it isn’t decisively taking the internationally recognized Ethiopian government’s side. This is because it’s comprised of many African states that are under the US and its allies’ neo-imperialist influence and are therefore incapable of independently conducting their foreign policy. Some also fear the consequences of too openly taking Ethiopia’s side since they’re worried that this might make them the US’ next Hybrid War targets. Nevertheless, the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia is indeed intended to serve as the first of many subsequent Hybrid Wars against African countries.

The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia has turned that targeted Horn of Africa state into the scene of the largest proxy war thus far of the New Cold War. It would be premature to describe the conflict as a “quagmire” though since it’s only been going on for a year, with the latest developments concerning the TPLF’s invasion of the neighboring Afar and Amhara Regions having occurred just half a year ago.

The reason for this is that there is no so-called “Asian Century” without a parallel “African Century”, meaning that China’s rise across the 21st century cannot occur without Africa’s. That’s because China requires African markets, resources, and labor to continue growing, the same as Africa requires access to the Chinese market, investment, and capacity building (including through training programs) in order to do the same. Their fates this century are therefore intertwined so it follows that the US’ Hybrid War on China – which characterizes the New Cold War – would focus intensely on provoking proxy conflicts in Africa. Ethiopia was targeted because of its preexisting identity conflicts and its role as one of China’s top partners on the continent.

The Administrative regions of Ethiopia

It’s due to this observation that the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia can be conceptualized as the first of many American Hybrid Wars on Africa, which is expected to become the hottest theater of proxy conflict in the New Cold War. If the US succeeds in either coercing African states to curtail then cut off their ties with China (particularly economic and technological ones), then it can hurt China by proxy. Those countries that don’t submit will then be victimized with their own bespoke forms of Hybrid War customized to most optimally exploit their respective preexisting identity tensions. That’s why it’s so important for all of Africa to rally behind Ethiopia right now.

5. Shahzada Rahim (SR): Since the beginning of the crisis, the American role seems vivid in Ethiopian domestic politics. The mainstream American media such as Fox News, CNN are leading the propaganda campaign against Mr. Abiy’s Government. In your opinion, why the Americans are supporting Tigray’s in the current war?

Andrew Korybko (AK): That was explained in the prior answers. To recap, the US supports the TPLF in order to handicap Ethiopia’s ability to serve as a positive example to other Global South nations of the mutual benefits inherent in pragmatically balancing between China and the US. Because of its proud history in promoting anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism, the US feared that Ethiopia’s policies could inspire other African nations as well as those across the rest of the Global South. It had to be stopped for that reason and made an example of what could happen to others if they don’t comply with the US demands to curtail and ultimately cut off their ties with China.

It needs to be clarified that the TPLF doesn’t represent all Tigrayans. While some claim that they enjoy popularity in their native region, others such as the government and its supporters maintain that they’re a radical ethno-fascist organization that’s seized control of Tigray, despotically maintains their power there, and are manipulating local minds with extremist ideologies in order to continue churning out child soldiers.

6. Shahzada Rahim (SR): if we analyze the ongoing Civil War in Ethiopia geopolitically; the country seems at the heart of a new cold war between China and the United States. Moreover, since 2010 China has spent billions of dollars in the Eastern African region especially in Kenya, Djibouti, Somaliland, and Eritrea surpassing the American investment.   Do you think that Ethiopia is going to become a new victim of a new geopolitical quagmire between China and the United States?

Andrew Korybko (AK): Once again, the Ethiopian government’s position is that it isn’t a “civil war”, but a law enforcement operation that morphed into an anti-terrorist campaign. I personally agree with this interpretation of events. To your question, yes, Ethiopia has indeed become the center of a rivalry between China and the US, but it must be clarified that China doesn’t regard itself as being in competition with the US since it believes that its investments and overall relations with other countries aren’t at the expense of their ties with the US. As proof of this, China has never pressured any of its partners to curtail and ultimately cut off their ties with the US like the US has done vis-à-vis its partners’ ties with China.

The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia has turned that targeted Horn of Africa state into the scene of the largest proxy war thus far of the New Cold War. It would be premature to describe the conflict as a “quagmire” though since it’s only been going on for a year, with the latest developments concerning the TPLF’s invasion of the neighboring Afar and Amhara Regions having occurred just half a year ago. The ENDF has pledged to push the terrorists back and totally destroy them, and they deserve some time to make good on those promises. After all, it hasn’t even been a month since Ethiopia promulgated its state of emergency to facilitate these efforts. So to summarize, it isn’t a “civil war” nor a “quagmire”, but Ethiopia is indeed a victim of the US.

The armed organizations are also driven by ethno-tribal motivations and hope to become warlords over their own regions in the event that the TPLF returns to power or can at least succeed with US political and economic support in coercing the federal authorities into agreeing to the Bosnian model as a “compromise” for ending the military phase of the conflict. That scenario is unlikely to happen for the earlier mentioned reasons, but even so, it’s important to clarify that the TPLF – while being an ethno-fascist organization – has a political vision that appeals to other similar such radical groups in the country.

7. Shahzada Rahim (SR): Since Mr. Abiy Ahmed Came to power in 2018, the country has made huge progress in the administrative, political, and economic spheres. Even he received global fame after signing a historic deal with Eretria, which ended a decade’s long conflict between the two countries. In your opinion, will Mr. Abiy Ahmed survive the current political quagmire; if the war with Tigray continues? 

Andrew Korybko (AK): It needs to be clarified once again that country isn’t in any state of “quagmire”. Ethiopia is fighting an anti-terrorist war where the invading TPLF recently made some advances towards the capital but are still far away from encircling it like the Western Mainstream Media wrongly claimed. The conflict was a political one up until last November when the TPLF made it a military conflict after their ambush against the ENDF’s Northern Command in Tigray.

That scenario is unlikely to happen for the earlier mentioned reasons, but even so, it’s important to clarify that the TPLF – while being an ethno-fascist organization – has a political vision that appeals to other similar such radical groups in the country.

The war will continue because PM Abiy made it clear that he doesn’t regard the terrorist-designated TPLF as equals and plans to totally eliminate the threat that they pose to Ethiopia’s national unity. That said, there are no credible reasons to expect him to either resign or be overthrown. He’s successfully rallied the country in light of recent events and remains genuinely popular, which was also proven by his Prosperity Party’s landslide victory in this summer’s parliamentary elections.

8. Shahzada Rahim (SR):

As I earlier answered, the military phase of the conflict is expected to continue, which will likely occur in parallel with an intensification of US-led Western pressure on Ethiopia’s democratically elected and internationally recognized government. PM Abiy’s position remains secure and his compatriots have rallied around their ENDF and the cause of national unity. This upsurge in patriotism will serve to counteract the US’ efforts to divide the Ethiopian people and engineer anti-government sentiment that could be exploited to cultivate fifth columnists, including Color Revolutionary forces and even terrorists.

In response to the second question, it needs to be clarified that the TPLF doesn’t represent all Tigrayans. While some claim that they enjoy popularity in their native region, others such as the government and its supporters maintain that they’re a radical ethno-fascist organization that’s seized control of Tigray, despotically maintains their power there, and are manipulating local minds with extremist ideologies in order to continue churning out child soldiers. Furthermore, the TPLF’s vision of “Bosnifying” Ethiopia for self-interested political reasons is also attractive to some other extremist and terrorist forces in the country.

These armed organizations are also driven by ethno-tribal motivations and hope to become warlords over their own regions in the event that the TPLF returns to power or can at least succeed with US political and economic support in coercing the federal authorities into agreeing to the Bosnian model as a “compromise” for ending the military phase of the conflict. That scenario is unlikely to happen for the earlier mentioned reasons, but even so, it’s important to clarify that the TPLF – while being an ethno-fascist organization – has a political vision that appeals to other similar such radical groups in the country.

In conclusion, tougher times are certainly ahead for Ethiopia which will require the collective sacrifices of its patriotic population in order to survive this crisis. The people are well-informed of what’s at stake, which isn’t just their national unity, but even their own lives. The “Bosnification” of Ethiopia would endanger everyone, especially those living in regions or even just locales where they’re a minority. There is no way that Ethiopia’s potential “Bosnification” would proceed peacefully. It would make Yugoslavia, Bosnia itself, Libya, and even Syria look like mild conflicts by comparison. No responsible Ethiopian wants that, hence why most are against the TPLF.


Author

Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. He specializes in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s Belt & Road Initiative, and Hybrid Warfare. His other areas of focus include South Asian affairs and the US’ recent restoration of hegemonic influence in Latin America.

About the Interviewer

Shahazada Rahim is a postgraduate scholar and geopolitical analyst. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of the online news agency and web portal “The Eurasian Post” and “The Radical Outlook”. He is a frequent contributor to oriental Review, Geopolitica.Ru, Jerusalem Post, New Strait Times, Daily Times, New Eastern Europe, and other international newspapers such as Independent Australia and Eurasia Review.


Republishing is allowed with the copyright tag of the Radical Outlook

About Post Author

The Radical Outlook

The Radical Outlook is an online news web Portal designed for in-depth news analysis from the Eurasian region and beyond. It is Founded by a geopolitical analyst Shahzada Rahim.
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