Djibouti Outpost Behind Somalia Rescue Is Part of New Defense Strategy
ndex.html?inline=nyt-per> THOM SHANKER
Published: January 26, 2012
WASHINGTON - An austere Pentagon outpost in the hardscrabble desert on the
Horn of Africa proved serendipitously ideal as a launching pad for Tuesday's
commando raid that freed two aid workers held in
malia/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Somalia. The use of the base, Camp
Lemonnier in neighboring
ibouti/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Djibouti, is also a signpost to the
future, as the military focuses on "economy of force" missions that can
preserve an American military presence and protect national security
interests at relatively low cost.
A rescue mission from any other American base in the region would have added
hours to the raiding party's mission to infiltrate Somalia and neutralize
the nine kidnappers - all were killed - without injury to the Navy Seal team
or the hostages. Basing the complex airborne assault on a warship would have
been far more complicated.
The "economy of force" concept involves using small numbers from the
American military to set up installations in far-flung regions of interest,
where they can be joined by personnel from other arms of the United States
government, including the State, Justice, Agriculture and Commerce
Departments; Customs and Border Protection; and the Agency for International
While a hostage-rescue mission generates news, the day-to-day work at Camp
Lemonnier focuses on quiet efforts at improving the abilities of local
militaries and law-enforcement personnel to protect and police their own
territory, while assisting in building schools, digging wells, laying roads
and vaccinating livestock.
Camp Lemonnier is part of an archipelago of outposts in high-risk
environments that also can serve as lily pads for commando raids and
intelligence operations if required. It offers runways, communications,
housing, a hospital - and privacy.
-defence-Leon-E-Panetta-arrives-in-Djibouti-PICS> Djibouti is the central
location for continuing the effort against terrorism," Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta said during a visit to Camp Lemonnier last month.
The trend in favor of a small American footprint overseas is expected to
grow as Mr. Panetta
strategic-shifts.html> must cut about $487 billion from the Pentagon budget
over the next decade, even as he shifts more forces to Asia while not
diminishing American deterrence and influence in the Middle East.
This military math may require the size of American forces to shrink in
Europe and elsewhere - and bases like Camp Lemonnier will be expected to
manage the risk at a modest cost.
Jennifer G. Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, a policy center here, said the mission
of the military's Africa Command originally was to upgrade the abilities of
local security forces - "so the U.S. would not be drawn into conflicts or
"But the United States may not have the leeway of waiting to build up
partner capacities to take on these kinds of challenges," she said. "So,
being nimble and flexible with a light footprint in a place like Djibouti,
the U.S. military may be required to tackle these crises immediately as they
Another important military mission that deploys a small force on the huge
African continent is in Uganda.
In October, President Obama
ed-advisers-to-africa-to-help-fight-lords-resistance-army.html> ordered 100
Special Operations advisers to Uganda to help train regional forces
combating the Lord's Resistance Army, a notorious renegade group that has
terrorized villagers in at least four countries with marauding bands that
kill, rape, maim and kidnap with impunity.
When Mr. Panetta visited Camp Lemonnier, there were about 3,500 American
personnel assigned there, up from the several hundred Marines and members of
Special Operations forces that landed in 2003 when the
> Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa
relocated. It had been based on a warship when the mission was conceived a
year before, dedicated to hunting for remnants of Al Qaeda in the wake of
the Taliban's ouster from Afghanistan.
The units include a headquarters staff, civil affairs teams that include
doctors and veterinarians, as well as engineers and military trainers.
Mostly invisible to the local population, the task force has responsibility
for a vast area of Africa that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia,
Sudan and Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden - almost 70 percent the size of the
continental United States.
While the Djibouti outpost is hot and isolated, American military personnel
do get an unusual benefit: a daily beer ration, prohibited under General
Order No. 1 for troops assigned to Afghanistan and, previously, to Iraq.
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Received on Thu Jan 26 2012 - 10:01:51 EST