November 26, 2003
Djibouti Then And Now
What a difference a year makes.
Broadsides, November 4, 2002:
TO THE SHORES OF DJIBOUTI: UPI is reporting that 700-800 U.S. Marines have arrived in Djibouti. Some are at sea and others are possibly stationed at a French base there.
General Tommy Franks confirmed the fact with this explanation: "We do have more forces in that region, down around Djibouti . . . as we have better refined and defined our relationships and what we're looking at, it seems to make sense to us to put this capability -- Marine capability -- in the vicinity of Djibouti to work with countries in the Horn of Africa."
Which country "in the vicinity of Djibouti" does General Franks have in mind? Take a look at this CIA World Factbook map and the answer is obvious. Somalia, a major al-Qaeda base of operations, is just south of Djibouti. Clearly, the Marines are spearheading military efforts to destroy Somali-based al-Qaeda mercenaries.
The Associated Press (via BOTW), November 24, 2003:
CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti (AP) - U.S. forces have disrupted several planned terrorist attacks against Western and other targets in the Horn of Africa and local authorities have killed or captured more than two dozen militants, the U.S. general in command of an anti-terrorism task force told The Associated Press.
Of the hundreds of foreign fighters detained by U.S. troops in Iraq, approximately 25 percent come from the seven countries that fall under the purview of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson told AP in his first in-depth interview since taking command in May 2003.
The task force is responsible for fighting terrorism in seven Horn of Africa countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan, Kenya and Somalia. The impoverished, Islamic region is a well-established recruiting ground for terrorist groups and U.S. officials describe it as a critical theater in the war on terrorism, which they fear could become another Afghanistan.
Robeson said suspected terrorists from Tanzania, through the Horn of Africa, all the way to southern Egypt and Saudi Arabia are working with each other to promote radicalism.
"There are three issues here: there is transnational terrorist networking, at large, there are specific cells planning terrorist attacks, and there's the recruiting, training and shipping of foreign fighters into Iraq,'' Robeson said Saturday night at his headquarters on a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti ...
"A year ago, it was basically thought that there were probably five to seven, maybe 15, depending on who you talk to,'' Robeson said. "There have already been 25 captured or killed, and now it's in the hundreds of named people that we and host nations would like to find and talk to" ...
There are no prisoners being held at the tented camp in Djibouti, military officials said, and Robeson refused to say how many terrorists his men have captured in U.S. operations.
But Robeson did say the 1,800 troops permanently based in Djibouti work throughout the region and are establishing a model for future operations that will depend more on intelligence and less on firepower. The focus is on helping poor countries stop terrorism before a massive U.S. military intervention, like the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, is required.
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