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mission will be withdrawn from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ).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
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.