Camp Lemonier (sic) is is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base , 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) . 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. After negotiations between March and May 2001, the Djiboutian government allowed for the base’s use by the U.S., providing for demining, humanitarian, 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 
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). It is also from there that the American Army launched a few attacks in 2007 against enemy forces in Somalia.
There are calls to ban a proposed ‘extremist’ Muslim memorial march in Wootton Bassett to honour the mostly Muslim civilian dead in the terror wars. Wootton Bassett is previously known for honouring the corpses of British soldiers killed in our wars in the East.
The Muslim militant behind this suggests to the outrage of The Sun that the killed British soldiers have died for nothing. But this is true.
He further suggests that Britain should convert to Islam. I should say he is free to say so.
Tens of thousands are protesting this dastardly plan on Facebook. Newspaper websites are ablaze.
The British accuse others of lacking irony!
Update: the prime minister has declared the proposed demonstration inappropriate. So now I am certain it should go ahead.
Update: The march was cancelled but the government has banned the group that proposed it anyway. This may be the first time a group has been banned under the terrorism laws for proposing a peaceful anti-war demonstration.
Britain is to lead the way stripping its citizens naked in the interests of the war on terror, according to the prime minister. With the backing of the prime minister, it is probable that this technology is entirely useless, except for the welcome promotion of a healthy naturist lifestyle.
We are at war in Yemen.
BBC images of our valiant PM in action in Basra and Camp Bastion.Having oneself photographed in front of soldiers is a George Bush trick and the news channels fall for it every time. Those who are themselves cowards are often keen to be photographed with soldiers.
The surreal course of the Gordon Brown war ministry continues in Basra where the prime minister announces (and the media solemnly recites) that Britain is about to hand “control” of Basra to the “Iraqi government”. This is the government whose writ does not run outside the walls of the Emerald City. And is now going to “control” Basra! Put out more flags.
How absurd a statement is this? One need only start with the obvious point that Britain does not and never has controlled Basra, that it is in fact controlled by rival political-religious-criminal-&-surrogate militias and the British cower at the airport, and even the supply of photo opportunities has dried up. But if Gordon needs to pretend, to get the army out of there, then so be it.
Then to Kabul where Gordon the war premier inspected Karzai’s honour guard and one presumes was not introduced to some of the narco-terrorists who make up the nice Mr Karzai’s government.
Then to camp Bastion – Little Britain meets Carry on Up the Kyber – where British soldiers are supplying new photo opportunities for politicians. The focus breathlessly repeated by all correspondents is Musa Qala. The fatuity of this operation is exquisitely revealed by Jason Burke in today’s Guardian.
As for poor Musa Qala: a victory full of sound and fury signifying nothing except that we will declare ourselves to have won every one of these battles until we lose the war It was evident that the Taliban decided not to fight to hold the town, although many civilians left before the fighting, and are now exposed to what are said to be terrible weather conditions, not to speak of prowling air strikes.
Meanwhile, the ANA soldiers are having a good loot of the place and as soon as some corridors are opened, we will soon have photo opportunities with shirt-sleeved reconstruction people from Dfid. The BBC and Sky are ready to come in with crews for that.
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Last year the British stormed in to the same place, killed lots of young men, then “victoriously” departed because there were not enough Nato soldiers to sustain the occupation. The cover for this was a “deal” with the local elders who promised to keep out the Taliban (who?). This victory hailed by the BBC was obviously absurd. The “Taliban” promptly returned as soon as the British had left. Even more fundamental definitional problem: who are the Taliban? The best explanation is that the Taliban are more or less anyone killed in these operations. Even if the young men slaughtered in such quantity by the British army are possibly not Taliban at all, but merely defending themselves against northern mercenaries and British and American infidels.
Meanwhile, Gordon has announced that British troops will be in Afghanistan for 10 more years. This needs to be read against previous forecasts of 30 years and 20 years. But what is the end state? We are there to establish – what exactly? If Gordon has a vision for Afghanistan, it would be interesting to hear him express it.
But ground reality has nothing to do with it. This is entirely political. So with this new 10-year plan for Afghanistan, Gordon has advanced once again the victory horizon. At the current rate of progress, in six more months, we will have won this war, five years ago.
The BBC in Hellmand province: inadequate journalism
I am not among those who believe the BBC has recently degraded since degradation has been its default state for some time. Those who are conscientious objectors to the licence fee are nonetheless invited to review last night’s episode of the flagship BBC current affairs programme, Panorama, restored to prime time, which was last night devoted to the Great Game in Afghanistan.
You can read the Dangerous Book for Boys story on the BBC website here. The story is remote from the actuality, which Panorama censored. This censored story is of unseeable Afghan civilians whose home is bombed then invaded by the British Army, alongside doped-up allies, and subsequently further trashed, in the cause of a ridiculous and ultimately failed military operation, which far from reflecting positively on the British effort in Afghanistan, reveals it to be deeply flawed and actually insane.
This was an example of a program given over lock, stock and smoking barrel to the MoD press office. Amidst all the bang bang, most of it consisting of massive consumption of ammunition directed in no particular direction, it was a classic example of what John Birt used to call the bias against understanding. Not even a perfunctory space is given to those who might suggest that what we were seeing was something completely different to what the script was proposing. The website version attempts a tiny bit more distance. But watch the TV show for yourself. It’s on this link .
It was a filmic narrative constructed from tropes ordered by the MoD, and with inconvenient truths not even filmed, on orders of the MoD. This is why the BBC is a state broadcaster and not a public broadcaster.
The film shows a patrol of British soldiers and their dope-smoking allies from the Afghan National Army sallying forth in Hellmand province to confront the “Taliban.” The Taliban is anyone who defends themselves from this rag-tag band, it seems.
The patrol advanced in glorious formation across the Afghan Plain in a shot borrowed from David Lean. Then they get down into the more verdant area by the river where many of the compounds have been deserted by inhabitants who seem unconvinced that the British are welcome visitors.
Eventually the soldiers make contact with “Taliban” over on the edge of the settlement and call in a few bombs. Enormous explosion follows. Filmed beautifully. Not close enough. Another one. Pictures even better. The soldiers have no idea who or what they are ordering bombed. To say this is a shambles is not, however, on the Panorama agenda.
Advancing up and attacking a new compound they find Afghan women and children, hiding in the remains. The young men are obviously out in the fields, shooting at the British.
We do not see the Afghan civilians whose house has been bombed by the British because the MoD “minder” forbids the BBC crew from filming this. Nor do we ever see the minder. Nor do we see any of the considerable number of British casualties, who are suffering not from gunshots, but from heat exposure. So this is a war with unseen British casualties and unseen Afghan victims. Convenient, isn’t it? Lots of bang bang – but we miss the essential consequences of this operation. And the real director, the man from the ministry, is completely unseen. Excluding the diaster this has been for the civilians, for the British it is at best costly and pointless. More bluntly, it is utterly counter-productive. Fathers and brothers have been killed or maimed on the other side, it seems. For what? British soldiers may with consummate professionalism and bravery embark on these operations but it’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. One cannot avoid the impression that the entire operation existed only to provide pictures for Panorama.
Other bits – the staged visit of the provincial reconstruction team led by its unctuous civil servant, for example; the long scripted bits with the British officers explaining all the good they are doing; the complete cop-out on the question of poppy – were just further garbage. Panorama is no longer any kind of showcase for BBC journalism, except for its worst.
The BBC of course knows no shame in shilling for the MoD and has done so for years. The truth of the military operation on which they were embedded was that the British army were calling in air strikes on civilians and then occupied their house as a base for a prolonged military operation that ultimately was completely futile. We do not know what happened to the civilians. Although if dead, they are counted as Taliban. Faced with the demand of the British military censor not to film the victims, the BBC chose access over the truth. No matter how brave the cameraman this was nauseating but sadly typical of the BBC.
Meanwhile, what is actually happening in Afghanistan…
The Defence of the Realm Blog is also good on this.
While the MoD continues plans to prepare to deploy the entire Parachute regiment in Hellmand province next year with Eurofighter jets (!) and even the new Merlin helicopter, cooler heads are noting an inconvenient truth. We have already lost. Let us review the evidence:
Karzai’s government is corrupt, inept, and controls only Kabul, on a good day, with the help of foreign soldiers.
Pakistan is a bigger mess than ever.
Poppy production is setting records.
The fighting this year produced terrible casualties amongst the fighters of both sides, for no apparent lasting military gain. The best idea the generals have is to do it all over again, in 2008.
There are also terrible civilian casualties. But we hardly know because it is not safe for journalists to operate in the combat zone.
There is essentially no civil reconstruction work because it is too dangerous.
The coalition of the willing has evaporated and nobody but the Americans, British (and maybe for not much longer) the Canadians are willing to engage in much actual fighting.
All this adds up to either, boldly (a) we have already lost or, more cautiously but not really so different (b) we have not won and are not winning.
Paddy Ashdown, who has been a soldier, politician and nation builder (in Kosovo) may very well reflect feeling inside Gordon Brown’s government, as it faces up to the realities of Blair’s war in Afghanistan.
He says in today’s Telegraph: “We have lost, I think, and success is now unlikely.”
This is an extremely welcome note of seriousness and realism amodst the prevailing groupthink of one more heave.
A sad and confused leading article in the Telegraph is deaf to Lord Ashdown. It accuses him of traducing our brave soldiers (he never did). And then reverts to the trope that it is all the fault of our NATO so-called allies. The reason why our allies are not shoulder to shoulder with us is because they know Lord Ashdown is right and the current strategy is a failure.
Briefings that we could be in Afghanistan “for decades” suggest that some of the poppy is making its way to opium dens in Whitehall.
Summary of October Chatham House report on Afghanistan. Full report is available here.
- Western forces’ success in fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and in achieving a satisfactory level of security throughout Afghanistan remains limited. The lack of success results from the coalition’s failure to develop and implement jointly a coherent strategy for Afghanistan that integrates counter-insurgency, counterterrorism and stability and reconstruction operations.
- The coalition’s internal cohesion regarding the development of the Afghanistan operation is becoming increasingly fragile. The willingness to share risks has become a key issue. National caveats are increasingly disputed. Not all NATO member states are prepared to send their forces into combat. This puts the fundamental principle of alliance solidarity on the line.
- The coalition forces’ comprehensive approach towards stability and reconstruction operations remains an elusive concept on the ground in Afghanistan. The consensus is that civil-military cooperation has to become an instrumental part of the Afghan operation, but it remains an unresolved issue how this could be translated into operational practice.
- The conflict has increasingly become a regional one. Taliban bases in Pakistan cannot be targeted by coalition forces; however, logistical and armament supplies out of Pakistan are significant, and Pakistan is used as a recruitment base. As long as parts of Pakistan serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, coalition forces will not be able to control Afghanistan.
Punch, April 1885. Brittania takes on Afghanistan
The blood runs cold at the report in Saturday’s Guardian that Britain is to launch a major escalation of its losing war in Afghanistan. After the collapse of the British military occupation of southern Iraq, now controlled by a variety of religio-criminal mafias, it might have been imagined that the government would have learned some humility. Not a bit of it.
As our so-called Nato allies sit for the most part on their hands, refusing to involve themselves with what is plainly an impossible mission, Whitehall has come up with a plan that suggests that much of the poppy being grown in Hellmand is being smoked in some opium den in a corner of the MoD.
The Big Idea is to involve the entirety of the parachute regiment, and even Eurofighter aircraft and Merlin helicopters, to overwhelm an “insurgency” that draws its fighters from a tribal group with a population estimated at 40 million. But of course it is not really an insurgency because the corrupt, incompetent, puppet Afghan government in Kabul enjoys not a shred of legitimacy in the south of the country.
Gordon Brown, whose claim to prudence becomes thinner by the hour, might have balked at this insane adventure. But not a bit of it. He and his part-time defense secretary, the robotic Des Browne, seem clinically psychotic, suffering from the delusion that their war on the Pashtun in Hellmand province, an utter failure so far, can somehow be brought to a successful military conclusion by the not so enormous might of the exhausted, under-resourced British armed forces.
The lies and fantasies of our Labour government on this subject are voluminous, starting with the claim to Parliament by former defense secretary John Reid that British troops could prevail in this mission without firing a shot. Two million rounds of ammunition later, with 82 British soldiers dead and hundreds maimed, not to forget thousands of Afghans killed and mutilated, the hare brained warriors of Whitehall are about to raise their bet on a losing hand.
Prepare for the British media to perform at their very worst. As this operation gets underway, we are going to be told of the bold, brave advances made by our boys and of thousands of Taliban killed. (Any Pashtun killed is automatically “Taliban”.) And then what? Does anyone seriously believe that the Pastun tribal areas will suddenly come to order?
What is the objective of this insane military adventure? What is the exit strategy? How long are we supposed to attempt to pacify Afghanistan? Ten years? Twenty years? The very last thing we should expect is an honest answer to these questions.
Retreat is the most dangerous manœuvre in warfare therefore as British forces prepare to evacuate Iraq, it is worth hoping that military planners and the new government defence team have consulted Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, Book 4, Chapter 13.
WHEN A BATTLE IS LOST, the strength of the army is broken — its moral even more than its physical strength. A second battle without the help of new and more favorable factors would mean outright defeat, perhaps even absolute destruction. That is a military axiom. It is in the nature of things that a retreat should be continued until the balance of power is reestablished.
Consult here the rest of von Clausewitz on the art of retreat.
My faith is limited in the competence of the current defence leadership to organise an effective withdrawal from Iraq. Even when Gordon Brown has apparently taken to personally micromanaging the project.
Families who have representatives in Iraq are entitled to wonder whether any of this is being thought through.
It is also impossible to know what to make of rumors that Cheney and Bush are determined to take out Iran (in a joint venture with the Israelis) before they leave, as they do not believe any incoming president will have the guts. That this would not be a manoeuvre consistent with Clausewitz is evident. The question is: how demented/psychotic/delusional is Bush? Is he going to pour oil on the flames and make a bad situation even worse? My neocon pal in America says don’t worry – the republicans in the senate won’t let him.
Helicopter on the roof of the CIA apartment building at 22 Gia Long Street, Saigon, April 29, 1975.
A shortage of helicopters in Iraq may make this type of retreat impractical.
It has been the frequent good fortune of war-mongering politicians that there are usually generals who will indulge their fantasies, in the interests of their own careers. A senior military class should, with its first-hand knowledge of the unpredictability of war, be doing everything it can to dissuade politicians from waging it. This involves a necessary modesty about the real capabilities of all those ill-equipped soliders, landlocked sailors and aircraftless airmen last seen in the BAE Systems hospitality chalet at the Paris air show.
But the sound of bugles makes for promotions and so all too often, ambitious soliders become complicit in the catastrophe that ensues. Thus has it been for Britain’s disastrous military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the dimensions of the disaster are revealed, the officers are reduced to spouting the very same lies as their political masters. That this is demoralising for soliders, who know a fuck-up when they see one, goes without saying.
The disgrace of the British political and media classes for the war in Iraq must therefore also be shared by the senior officers who did not stand up against what was always a mad idea of simultaneously fighting two distant wars without enough air lift, soliders, specialised equipment or even bullets.
Now might be thought time for the senior officers to tell the truth. The defeat in Iraq has left remaining British forces there exposed and in terrible danger. Afghanistan is not so far from this. Yet the media trope of the excellence of our armed forces, “best in the world,” experience gained on the streets of Northern Ireland, etc., etc. (see all newspapers) survives contact with facts that show that no matter how brave and willing our soldiers, they are as ever led by donkeys.
This series of entanglements has been built on lies. Not a shot was to be fired, promised the former defense secretary John Reid, announcing the British deployment to Helmand. Officers and editors knew this was a lie. This was to have been a “reconstruction” mission. Well it’s clearly failed. Indeed, it is worse. The operation has failed to prevent, and may even have encouraged, a come-back of the Taliban.
Hearts and minds have not be won by the massive killing and destruction for which British forces are held locally to blame. Neither have our soldiers inhibited the drugs trade, which is thriving.
British forces are now operating beyond their resources. Senior officers knew this was likely to be an operation with Falklands-level casualties yet Reid misled parliament and yet not one seems to have said a word. Let us hope a new generation of careerists now tell Gordon Brown the truth, in the interest of their own promotions.
The situation in Afghanistan suggests strongly that the war is lost there, too. It is indeed worse than ever as military operations including brutal air strikes have turned the population against the British and NATO troops who are suffering continuing casualties and making no apparent progress whatsoever. The drug traffic is at a record level. (My own suggestion on this, War on terror, how to win it, has been ignored.) Tony Blair’s promises that British troops would get everything they needed have of course been broken – with the compliance of silent senior officers.
Perhaps we should expect at a minimum a dignified silence from those who have commanded these disasters. Not a bit of it! Instead, we get more lies. We have notably had the spectacle of Air Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Here he is denying the claim in the Washington Post last week (and in I told you so a month ago) that Britain has basically lost its war in Iraq. Not at all boasts the air marshall: “”Our mission there was to get the place and the people to a state where the Iraquis could run that part of the country if they chose to and we’re very nearly there.”
Let us deconstruct this sentence which the French would call an “engrenage” or spiral, in this case of falsehood. The “line” taken by the air marshall is in fact garbage. This was not our war aim. The war aim, originally, was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. The politicians, inasmuch as they have ever been consistent, have spoken of elimination of Iraq’s terrorist infrastructure, or protecting oil supplies, and precluding a hostile Iraq (or Iran) from dominating the Persian gulf. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Baghdad, spoke of a free, democratic and independent Iraq. There was none of the air marshall’s subjunctiveness about it. So the mission now described by the air marshall was never in fact the mission. Then there is his phrase: “We’re very nearly there.” Where? We know and assume that politicians dissemble. One of the things I used to find admirable about officers was their professional candour – for they knew the risks of pretending things were what they were not. I suppose I have always been naïve.
Measured by every single single one of these objectives, the British have completely failed in the south. Worse, conditions are deteriorating for a residual British force of 5,500. They are currently beseiged in a manner than is reminiscent of Gordon of Khartoum. Every night they must dispatch a 100-vehicle convoy from the beseiged airport to the beseiged Palace, and every night this is attacked.
It is actually quite hard to see how the British can withdraw in good order. If our armed forces were more capable, we’d be sending MORE soliders to the area to cover the retreat. (If we had any.) I have written before of the lessons of Clausewitz and how the British government and its commanders as yet show no signs of knowing them. So there is a really ghastly prospect of further disasters ahead.
Now is the time to tell the truth – but the senior officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces will have none of it. He is inventing war aims as he goes along.
Sir Jock’s very lack of fitness for purpose is what makes him so attractive to politicians. An airman, he is from the most expensive and incapable arm of the armed forces. Sir Jock has been up to his neck in the insane Eurofighter project (a plane so far incapable of fighting a day in the war on terror). He is like the operetta admiral who never went to sea, who is now in charge of the Queen’s navy.
I told you so noted the nature of British failure in Iraq here.
The Washington Post said the same thing several weeks later here.
The Sunday Times News Review contains a dreadful story on British military failure in Afghanistan here.
A collègue bloggeur of this parish offers a war souvenir here.
From Iraq Slogger, excellent reporting from Basra here.
Image: Baden-Powell defends Mafeking by Henri Dupray