Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the Middle East and Africa to “reaffirm key U.S. military alliances” and engage with strategic partners.” Mattis only visited the tiny nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. maintains its largest military base. Ethiopia was conspicuously absent from the “strategic partner” lineup.
In September 2014, Barack Obama underscored the vital importance of Ethiopia in the U.S. war on terrorism. He noted that cooperation with Ethiopia “is making a difference” and that the “partnerships that we have formed with countries like Ethiopia are going to be critical to our overall efforts to defeat terrorism.”
In July 2015, during his state visit, Obama called Ethiopia an “outstanding partner” in the fight against terrorism in the Horn and a “key partner” in resolving the crises in South Sudan. He praised Ethiopia for being “a major contributor to U.N. peacekeeping efforts”, and for its unique role in “contribut(ing) more (peacekeeping) troops than any other country in Africa.”
The Mattis visit to Djibouti comes as the U.S. intensifies its military pressure on al-Shabaab, the terrorist group in Somalia with ties to al-Qaeda, which has been fighting for over a decade to establish an Islamic state and force out African Union peacekeeping troops.
Late last month, President Trump ordered airstrikes against al-Shabaab and approved a Department of Defense proposal “to provide additional precision fires” to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces.