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Op-Ed: Djibouti and Camp Lemonnier a hub for U.S. drone operations

By Ken Hanly     Oct 26, 2012 in World
The Washington Post has a long article detailing the operations at a U.S. base in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. Drones from the base fly north to Yemen but also south to Somalia.
Camp Lemonnier has a long colonial history and was for a long time a base for the French Foreign Legion. However, it is now a key hub in U.S. operations in the Horn of Africa, with drone attacks being launched into Yemen as well.
As far back as 2002, the U.S. established Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Camp Lemonnier is the base for this group, as of 2008. It is also the base for Operation Enduring Freedom Horn of Africa. However, the facility is now becoming the busiest drone base outside of Afghanistan.
While the Obama administration refuses to reveal any legal or operational details of the targeted killing programs, no doubt the final decisions are quite often transmitted to Camp Lemonnier, and the killer drones are dispatched from there.
The camp has been expanded to about 500 acres and most of its activities are now devoted to counter terrorism. A cloak of secrecy surrounds operations at the camp. The U.S. military refused to allow journalists from the Washington Post to tour the base, citing operational security concerns.
However, when a Post reporter appeared in Djibouti, the camp's highest ranking commander, Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, did consent to an interview but only away from the base at a Djibouti hotel and he only answered general questions.
In spite of the secrecy, the Post was able to obtain many military records including drone accident reports and internal planning memos. None of the documents were classified.
The documents show that the drone wars escalated early in 2012, after 8 Predator drones arrived at the base. They show plans to further escalate drone operations in coming months. The documents also reveal the central role being played by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). President Obama relies on this group to carry out many sensitive counter terrorism operations. The group coordinated Operation Neptune that killed Osama bin Laden in May of 2001. The drone attack that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in September of 2011 in Yemen was mounted by the JSOC.
At Camp Lemonnier, there are about 300 JSOC personnel who plan drone raids and coordinate drone attacks from inside a high security compound replete with satellite dishes and surrounded by concertina wire. Much more detail is given in the full article in the Washington Post.
The U.S. is also expanding drone operations in Africa and the Middle East by seeking out and expanding bases secretly.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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