The US has formed a task force to help organize and ensure the safe evacuation of American diplomats and citizens from Ethiopia as the situation quickly deteriorates, a State Department official said Friday.
Washington authorized what is known as voluntary departure for Embassy staff and their families from Addis Ababa earlier in the week, according to US officials.
“The Department has established an Ethiopia Conflict Task Force to oversee the Department’s planning, management, and logistics related to events in Ethiopia,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Arabiya English late Friday.
“The safety of US government personnel, their dependents, US citizens, and the security of our facilities remains among our highest priorities,” the official added.
On Friday, the US Embassy posted a statement on its website urging all US citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.
But the official said the State Department does not provide numbers of American citizens living in or traveling to a particular country. “We do not want to provide figures that cannot be considered authoritative,” the official said.
US-based Foreign Policy was first to report on the formation of the new task force.
Meanwhile, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman was in the country continuing his efforts to de-escalate tensions between government forces and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood.” The fighting has been going on for one year, and the US is reviewing whether or not Ahmed’s government has carried out genocide.
The US is also weighing sanctions against various individuals, officials and sides in the ongoing fighting.
“We remain gravely concerned about the escalating violence, the expansion of fighting throughout the country, and also the growing risk to the unity and the integrity of the Ethiopian state,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters Friday.
She added that Feltman was still in Ethiopia and was pressing all sides to de-escalate the conflict in order to reach a ceasefire.