The Jewel in the Crown of Washington’s Permanent War: Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

In the final of the ‘Permanent War’ series from the Washington Post, Craig Whitlock reports on the expansion of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the U.S. first ‘counter-terrorism’ base, and the hub of drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. In fact, drones take off and land around 16 times a day at the base, which is sandwiched between Somalia (10 miles to the Southeast) and Yemen (North, across the Gulf of Aden).permanentWar26

The origin of the base lies as a ‘Third World’ outpost by the French Foreign Legion (Yemen itself is a former French colony). About a decade ago it was used for marines looking to gain a foothold in the region. Since then, it has been transformed into the busiest Predator base outside of Afghanistan. The secretive 500 acre base is dedicated to counter-terrorism–the first of its kind–against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in a perpetual war.

Activities at Camp Lemonnier increased in 2010 after 8 Predators were delivered, turning the camp into a fully-fledged drone base. AQAP in Yemen had attempted to bomb two U.S.-bound airliners and jihadists in Somalia consolidated their hold. JSOC plays a central role at the base, with 300 Special Forces personnel coordinating raids from inside a barb wired compound. A total of 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians, and contractors are assigned to the camp where they ‘train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root’.

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US military and intelligence in Yemen shows Obama’s expansion of war

United States Joint Special Operations Command...
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Published January 29, 2010

The collaboration with Yemen provides the starkest illustration to date of the Obama administration’s efforts to ramp up counterterrorism operations, including in areas outside the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. Efforts in Yemen have resulted in more than two dozen ground raids and airstrikes.  Obama also has sent U.S. military forces briefly into Somalia.  He has embraced the notion that the most effective way to kill or capture members of al-Qaeda and its affiliates is to work closely with foreign partners, including those with feeble democracies, shoddy human rights records and weak accountability over the vast sums of money Washington is giving them to win their continued participation in these efforts.  Targeted killing of US citizens abroad is part of the discussion.

Washington Post, January 27,  2010

U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes

By Dana Priest

U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials. Continue reading