In recent years the US has quietly ramped up its military presence across the African continent, even though “officially” the US has only one permanent base, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Since the US opened that base, shortly after September 11, 2001, it has grown from 88 acres with 900 military personnel to around 500 acres with 5,000 military personnel. Camp Lemonnier is currently undergoing a $1.4 billion upgrade, expanding everything from aircraft maintenance hangars, ammunition shelters, and runway extensions to accommodation facilities.
In May 2014 the US reached an agreement with the government of Djibouti (called an “implementing arrangement”) that secures its presence through 2044 for the sum of $70 million per year. By this time in 2014 US troops were carrying out almost two operations, exercises, or activities somewhere in Africa. The majority of these operations were carried out from one of the numerous cooperative security bases across the continent.
One of these cooperative security bases, Chabelley Airfield, is located some 13 kilometers away from Camp Lemonnier. Since 2013 the US government has quietly expanded Chabelley into a key hub for its secret war. While it is run by the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), it is “officially” operated and used by the French military.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 appropriated $50 million for construction of an “Airfield and Base Camp at Agadez, Niger … to support operations in western Africa.” The newest drone base constitutes a high-cost, high-tech military enterprise plunked down in yet another poor, under-developed country in Africa.
Christine Mungai, “The ‘hippo trench’ across Africa: US military quietly builds giant security belt in middle of continent” Mail & Gaurdian Africa, October 18, 2015, http://mgafrica.com/article/2015-10-15-nigeria-welcomes-us-decision-to-send-300-troops-to-cameroon-to-help-in-boko-haram-fight.
Nick Turse, “The Stealth Expansion of a Secret US Drone Base in Africa” The Intercept, October 21, 2015, https://theintercept.com/2015/10/21/stealth-expansion-of-secret-us-drone-base-in-africa/.
Student Researcher: Bri Silva (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)