At the request of the Ethiopian government, the United States has stopped flying drones from southern Ethiopia in its campaign against militants in Somalia and Yemen, officials said.
On Tuesday, US officials confirmed that drone activities had ceased at an airfield in the town of Arba Minch, which had been used to launch Reaper drones that can carry Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.
“This was done upon request by the Ethiopian government,” government spokesman Getachew Reda said, according to Reuters.
“In the first place, this was a project with a limited timespan and both governments had long prepared themselves for this eventuality,” he added without giving further details.
The closure is likely to mean US drone activity will return to the base in Djibouti. Flights there had been halted due to safety concerns, but the facility has since been upgraded.
Ethiopia is one of Washington’s key allies and is considered a bulwark against militant Islam in the region, Reuters reported. Ethiopian troops have been fighting al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab militants in Somalia since 2011 as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission.
“US military personnel are no longer in Arba Minch,” said David Kennedy, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa.
“As we work with our African partners, our mutual needs change over time, and a determination was made that our use of the facilities in Arba Minch is no longer necessary,” he told Reuters in an email.