- Venezuela’s Maduro calls on student ‘price vigilantes’ to hit the streets, report businesses
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Bow before Valkyrie, NASA’s ‘superhero robot’ entry in DARPA challenge
- 10-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for pretend bow-and-arrow shooting
- Tea partiers turn on Capitol Hill budget deal
- Budget deal to get quick vote in the House
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro ‘marriage’
- Sebelius calls for review of Obamacare rollout woes
- American dream dying, but many see free market as solution: Poll
- Air Force base in South Carolina boots Nativity scene
PRICE: Readying outpost in Djibouti for ‘rapid response’
It will be a force “specifically trained and ready to respond to a crisis such as Benghazi, [Libya, which] we didn’t have before,” Gen. Field, deputy director of strategy, plans and policy for the Army, told reporters at the Pentagon.
While serving as U.S. ambassador to three East African island nations from 2002 to 2005, I was told by U.S. commanders that rapid response to emergencies in East Africa was one of the original purposes for establishing the base in Djibouti.
Djibouti is located on the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, a key terrorist transit point to Africa, just 17 miles from Yemen. In December 2002, U.S. Central Command established the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) at Camp Lemonnier, the former French Foreign Legion base. The objective was to cover Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, the Seychelles and Yemen.
The base’s functions were to conduct security operations, counterterrorism training, humanitarian assistance and civil affairs projects. The “real” purpose, however, was to deny al Qaeda from using East Africa as a safe haven.
Sub-Saharan Africa had become a dangerous place, with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, the 2002 bombing of the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, and the 2002 attempted missile attack on an Israeli charter aircraft. Al Qaeda had developed a significant presence and had to be stopped.
Temporary headquarters of the CJTF-HOA were set up in 2002 on the USS Mount Whitney, off the coast of Djibouti, with several hundred military personnel onboard. In May 2003, the task force became operational for regional operations.
In 2002, there were three U.S. commands with areas of responsibility in Africa — European Command, Pacific Command and Central Command — all operating independently. With the increase of attacks by Islamists in Iraq, escalating instability in the region and the expansion of al Qaeda in East Africa, a chief of mission conference was held in Djibouti in late 2003. At the time there were almost 1,800 troops, including special forces, stationed at the base.
ArmyGen. John P. Abizaid, commander of Central Command who oversaw operations in 27 countries, gave us an overview of terrorist concerns and security issues in the region. He indicated that increased terrorist activity was linked to a rise in radical imams teaching hatred in their madrassas, an issue not isolated to any one region.
Testifying before Congress in March 2004, Gen. Abizaid discussed the expansion of al Qaeda in several regions and said that eliminating the terrorist network’s senior leadership would not eliminate terrorism. Adding to the tumult, many Arab insurgents recruited by Osama bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s had left and found a safe haven in Yemen, while others ended up in various parts of Africa.
In late 2006, al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings reportedly were embedded with Islamist militias in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. In early January 2007, Somali and Ethiopian troops pursued the Islamists, who fled to several southern towns, including the fishing village of Ras Kamboni, where al Qaeda had a training camp, few miles from the Kenyan border.
Two AC-130 gunships from Djibouti assisted in aerial attacks, killing several insurgents.
In September 2008, the establishment of U.S. Africa Command united operations on the continent, except those in Egypt, which remained under Central Command. The new command’s headquarters were based in Stuttgart, Germany, but Camp Lemonnier would have been a better choice to interface with the CJTF-HOA.
Camp Lemonnier has been expanded to include a squadron of F-15 fighter jets, AC-130 gunships, Black Hawk helicopters and refueling aircraft. Nearly 3,000 troops, including 300 special operation forces, are stationed there. Its fleet of Predator drones conduct surveillance and attack missions in Africa, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
About the Author
- PRICE: U.S. Embassies — the first line of defense
- PRICE: Mali's presidential election
- PRICE: Obama's miscues in Egypt
- PRICE: Obama missing chance to promote trade in Africa
- PRICE: Mali elections need to be free, fair and transparent
Latest Blog Entries
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Teen thugs in DC run wild -- even while wearing GPS ankle bracelets
- New budget accord saves $23 billion -- after $65 billion spending spree
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- VEGAS RULES: Harry Reid pushed feds to change ruling for casino's big-money foreigners
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- More than a quarter million sign up for Obamacare in November
- Gov't Motors: Obama fudges math on auto bailout, $10.5 billion loss for taxpayers
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- MILLER: Dick Heller challenges D.C.s gun registration, files for summary judgment in Heller II
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
An objective, analysis-based perspective of D.C. sports as seen through the eyes of lifelong D.C. sports enthusiast, John Heibel.
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Human interest stories to feed interest, satisfy curiosity and see outside the box.
Politics, economics, and business from a real world perspective.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow