Top US officials are not known for frequenting Eritrea. Hence, whenever they visit the capital Asmara, people tend to ask a lot of questions. We know two major events occurred in June 2016 that might have prompted the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Shannon Lee Smith, to visit Asmara recently: Ethiopia’s unsuccessful 2-day full military attack against Eritrea and the release of the (now widely-discredited) report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.
For starters, it’s important to note that Dr. Smith’s visit to Asmara has not been logged in the State Department’s Travel Schedule. Usually, diplomatic missions by key US officials don’t get logged (sometimes for months) for three reasons: it’s a hastily arranged visit due to unexpected or urgent matters; the administration does not want to disclose the overall objective of the mission; or they do not want to provide a formal endorsement for the mission. So, we may not know for some time if Dr. Smith’s recent visit to Asmara is an official one. If it was a classified mission, however, I am afraid one should not expect any treasure from meeting with Al Capone’s agent in the middle of night in the dark alley. Continue reading Why Was the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary in Asmara?