As the war heads for Africa, a visit to Djibouti (didactic)

Posted in Africa, Terrorism, War by Deputy city editor on January 5, 2010

From Wikipedia:

Camp Lemonier (sic) is is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base [1], situated at Djibouti‘s Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and home to theCombined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM)[2] . It was established as the primary base in the region for the support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA). The camp is a former military barracks of the French Foreign Legion. The original French base had been named after General Emile-René Lemonnier.[3] After negotiations between March and May 2001, the Djiboutian government allowed for the base’s use by the U.S., providing for demininghumanitarian, and counter-terrorism efforts, and it now serves as the location from which U.S. and Coalition forces are operating in the Horn of Africa. The agreement made by officials from the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti signed an access agreement with the Djiboutian government for use of the camp, as well as a nearby airport and port facilities.

Today, Camp Lemonier is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa providing a base of operations geared toward building security, sovereignty, and stability in the region. Visitors to the base will see and hear the vibrant operational tempo that exists here day and night.

Planes and helicopters are constantly on the go, Navy Seabees are preparing for construction projects, and Marines are moving to meet ongoing missions. It is common to walk around base and see a wide array of uniforms from around the world, including the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and many African militaries.

For more information on the camp and facilities, visit the Camp Lemonier Web site [1]

In 2001, the Djiboutian government leased the former French Foreign Legion base Camp Lemonnier to the United States. It transitioned from United States Central Command to United States Africa Command in 2008 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

From the Camp’s official website:

Camp Lemonnier is located on the south-west side of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, between the runway overflow areas and a French military munitions storage facility. Following use by the French Foreign Legion, the facility was operated by the Djiboutian Armed Forces.

While the United States had long understood that Islamic extremists used the large desert areas of northeastern Africa, known as the Horn of Africa, as a base of operations, its efforts to combat the threat had been minimal. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. began to expand those efforts. At first, it was limited to focused attacks, but in 2002, the U.S. government realized that to reduce extremism would require long term engagement with the local governments and populations.

As a result, it established the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) to conduct stability operations in the area. In November 2002, the CJTF-HOA staff, a Marine-based organization, arrived off the coast of Djibouti onboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20).  In May 2003, CJTF-HOA transitioned from the Mount Whitney to Camp Lemonnier, moving all headquarters personnel and equipment.

On July 1, 2006, the United States Marine Corps turned over responsibility for Camp Lemonnier to the U.S. Navy.  U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) took over as the component commander while the base fell under Commander Navy Region Southwest Asia (CNRSWA).

In January 2007, the U.S. and Djiboutian governments announced that a lease agreement had been signed to expand Camp Lemonnier from 88 acres to nearly 500 acres. The term of the lease was for 5 years with options to renew.  With the additional land, the camp improved living conditions for its personnel, installing containerized living units (CLUs) along with concrete sidewalks and gravel roads.  This drastically improved quality of life as people moved from tents to CLUs.

On October 1, 2008, Camp Lemonnier was realigned in support of the stand up of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).  Responsibility for CJTF-HOA was transferred from the USCENTCOM to USAFRICOM as it assumed authority over the African theater of operations.  The base also changed from CNRSWA to Commander Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia (CNEURAFSWA).

In May 2009, Camp Lemonnier welcomed the arrival of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force P-3 Detachment which has made significant contributions to the anti-piracy mission along with the many coalition ships who have made Djibouti a frequent place to stop.  This led to the stand up of the first Harbor Boat Security Unit on the African continent in July 2009, providing port security for ships at the Ports of Djibouti and Doraleh.

Camp Lemonnier is currently executing construction funded by FY08 & FY09 Military Construction (MILCON) appropriation.  These projects will expand the Camp’s aircraft parking apron and taxiway system improving its operational capabilities; provide a new dining facility raising the quality of life to military, civilians, and contractors aboard Camp Lemonnier; and further develop its network infrastructure system.  Future MILCON projects, funded through FY11, will construct a Telcon Facility, pave Camp Lemonnier’s internal and external roads, and build a satellite fire station along with a

number of other projects to increase the Camp’s role as a enduring establishment in the Horn of Africa.

Through its history, Camp Lemonnier has evolved and adapted to the ever increasing mission demands.  There are still many chapters that remain unwritten as the base moves from being expeditionary to an enduring presence on the east Africa coast.

France’s 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade shares Camp Lemonier with the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the United States Central Command, which arrived in 2002. It is from Djibouti that Abu Ali al-Harithi, suspected mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the American citizen Ahmed Hijazi, along with four others persons, lost their lives in 2002 while riding a car in Yemen, by a Hellfire missile launched by an RQ-1 Predator drone provided by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[7] It is also from there that the American Army launched a few attacks in 2007 against enemy forces in Somalia.

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