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Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East

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As the war in Afghanistan begins to wind down, the Air Force foresees its resources shifting to Africa. Col. Kelly Passmore of the 449th Air Expeditionary Group commander at Camp Lemonnier said he believes it's already happening.

"Our presence here in Djibouti is enduring and I think it is growing," Col. Passmore told Stars and Stripes. "As DOD has capacity that is freed up from our transition out of Afghanistan, it gives us forces that are able to now focus on this region."

Additional aircraft taxiways and ramp space at Lemonnier will add flexibility "that will give us a more robust capability," Col. Passmore added. "It's very likely it will get filled up over time."

The officer was also asked about Intelligence Reconnaissance and Surveillance operations conducted out of Djibouti, but declined to get into specifics — for obvious reasons.

"The location in Djibouti is key," he told Stars and Stripes. "It is key for multiple combatant commands. From here, you can reach Central Command's and Africa Command's areas of concern."

With increased assets in the region comes increased risks. If more medical evacuations become a reality, Capt. Keegan Owens, a combat rescue officer with the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, told Stars and Stripes that the Air Force will be prepared.

"It's our job to get in while bullets are flying," Capt. Owens said. "These (pararescumen) are able to provide the very best medical care in the most dangerous combat environment."

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