The US war in East AfricaOctober 28, 2011
After reports last month that the US was building “a constellation of secret drone bases” across East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and news earlier this month that an American combat team had been deployed to Uganda to kill or capture Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, the report that the US is backing Kenya’s invasion of Somalia is perhaps unsurprising. On top of that news comes confirmation of the completion of one of those drone bases, in Ethiopia (although the Ethiopian government officially denies what locals can see with their own eyes). The latter Washington Post story contains several tidbits of information about the growing US military presence in East Africa:
Mindful of the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle in which two U.S. military helicopters were shot down in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and 18 Americans killed, the Obama administration has sought to avoid deploying troops to the country.
As a result, the United States has relied on lethal drone attacks, a burgeoning CIA presence in Mogadishu and small-scale missions carried out by U.S. Special Forces. In addition, the United States has increased its funding for and training of African peacekeeping forces in Somalia that fight al-Shabab.
. . . The Air Force operates a small fleet of Reapers from the Seychelles, a tropical archipelago in the Indian Ocean, about 800 miles from the Somali coast.
The U.S. military also operates drones — both armed versions and models used strictly for surveillance — from Djibouti, a tiny African nation that abuts northwest Somalia at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. About 3,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the only permanent U.S. base on the African continent.
The article also contains an admission by a Kenyan official that the US has provided unspecified “technical assistance” for the Somali invasion, a claim which the US officially denies.