EPLF’s strategic retreat and the intervention of Soviet Union
In the history of the Eritrean people’s struggle for Liberation, 1978 was the year where EPLF experienced various changes. To mention some, following a number of victories in 1977 the armed struggle had achieved a number of victories in 1978 that predict the liberation of the country. In the other end, it was also the year where the armed struggle was facing the intervention of that time superpower the Soviet Union. The alliance of Soviet Union and its partners established with Derg were a huge challenge to the armed struggle. It was also the time where except the cities of Asmara, Massawa, Adi- Keih, Barentu and Assab all the villages, other cities and towns in the country were liberated and those latest victories of the EPLF were a threat to both the Derg regime and its allies. And to protect the interest of Derg in Eritrea, the alliances start to supply the Derge whatever necessary in its mission to destroy the armed struggle of the Eritrean People.
After the end of the war in Ogaden with the victory of the Derg with massive help from its allies, it shifted all its force of the country to the north, and in July 1978 repeated attacks were launched against EPLF. Despite the fact that the EPLF was well organized both materially and militarily, it was not able to face the huge army of the Derg that came from all around Ethiopia with all the sophisticated weapons and human power assistance it got from Soviet Union. Although almost the entire country was in the hands of EPLF fighters, the front was not able protect the cities with the number of weaponry and soldiers deployed in the cities, as a result a decision was made for the strategic withdrawal of EPLF. In 1978 EPLF made a strategic withdrawal from the towns and villages it previously liberated.
Although many had thought that the strategic withdrawal was the end of the EPLF, it was a strategic retreat for reinforcement and reorganization of the front. The strategic retreat by itself was also not an easy task with the civilian displaced moving along with the fighters. It was a tough task to protect civilians to a journey of long distance, but EPLF were able to reach the destined base with great courage and bravery and many have heroically fallen to this end.