On Thursday, B-1 Lancer bombers, American F-35s, Rafales and French Mirages took off from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, back in the Red Sea earlier this week, and landed at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
It is a show of force that NATO aviation has just made, this Thursday, in the skies of Djibouti. It is indeed the first time that we have seen flying "the Bone", the American B-1 Lancer, since 2011. It was then the start of the Libyan war. The exit of the bomber is often a harbinger of wartime. However, during the NATO parade in the skies of Djibouti, it is not one but seven B-1 Lancer that we could see.
What impress the specialists: for the invasion of Baghdad in 2003, only three of these bombers had been used to attack the Iraqi capital. During the same NATO exercises, Rafale and Mirage 2000s from the French army were also present. As well as about forty jets and bombers, transported by a British aircraft carrier, and which landed on the runway of Camp Lemonnier, AFRICOM's base in Djibouti.
"We welcome this event, which is the symbol of our common commitment to peace in the Horn of Africa as well as on the whole of the African continent", said the commander of the French forces in Djibouti, General Stéphane. Dupont, after this exercise. On the American side, AFRICOM Director Gregory Anderson said that “the mission served as a visual representation of the commitment of the participants (France, United Kingdom and United States) to stability and security in the United States. the Horn of Africa ”.
Towards an operation in Ethiopia?
But while the West continues to threaten the Ethiopian regime of Abiy Ahmed, engaged in a civil war against the Tigrayan separatists, this exercise 600 kilometers from Addis Ababa looks like a threat. Especially since the bombers in question are designed for nuclear strikes and the dropping of hydrogen bombs with free fall of more than one ton per bomb. In other words, the arsenal at NATO's disposal is intended for much more than the “stability” and “security” of the region…
B-1 bombers have in fact been used on only five occasions: in 1998 and 2003 against Iraq, in 1999 in Yugoslavia, in 2001 in Afghanistan and Libya. How then can we explain that the United States is sending seven of its 45 precious bombers to Djibouti?
The United States, which failed to have Eritrea and Ethiopia condemned by the UN Security Council after a succession of Chinese and Russian vetoes, imposed sanctions on the regime in place. After the economic embargo in July and the end of financial aid in August against Ethiopia, Eritrea was subject to the same sanctions on Friday, November 12. Joe Biden also announced that additional sanctions were “pending”, in order to leave room for the Ethiopian authorities to start “real talks” which “must lead to a ceasefire”.
So far, no intention of military action has been expressed by the United States. However, if Thursday's military exercise proves one thing, it is that NATO countries are preparing for war… and giving themselves the means to do so. Usually, the United States tries to form a coalition with its Western allies before proposing NATO action. The presence of the French and British army, with so many resources, in Djibouti, raises questions.
The British aircraft carrier that transported the planes to Djibouti was assigned to control Somali waters for more than a decade. As for the French planes, they more than probably come from Sardinia, Cyprus or Lebanon, where the French and British presence forces are often deployed before being assigned.
On the Ethiopian side, no concession intention was expressed. For three months now, the Ethiopian army has suffered a setback in the Tigray War. Despite everything, Abiy Ahmed did not make any progress on a possible ceasefire. And on the Tigrayan side, the military campaign does not stop: the Tigray People's Liberation Front (FLPT) has continued its assault since the capture of Mekele, the Tigrayan capital, extending southward. Currently, much of the Afar region is under the control of the FLPT, as well as northern Amhara, the region in which the army has done the most damage in this war which has lasted for more than a year. .
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, barely returned to his post after an electoral victory in the legislative elections last June, called for civilians in the two regions attacked to "arm and defend themselves". He also stubbornly refused any international mediation, his government accusing the West of operating "propaganda against Ethiopia".
Meanwhile, civilian deaths number in the tens of thousands, and the media blackout is total. The Ethiopian authorities have managed to arrest employees of NGOs providing humanitarian aid and to torture some of them - 72 employees of the World Food Program (WFP) - whom the regime accuses of transporting weapons to Tigray.
Will the Ethiopian state give in to the threat of Western military intervention? Or will Abiy Ahmed secure international support in time to prevent NATO from taking action?