Djibouti: US Marine Watching Rise of Piracy Attacks in Somalia

26 April, 2017, 08:42 | Author: Ora Austin
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis speaks at the opening of the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich

The base allows the USA military to monitor piracy in the region and also to coordinate efforts with the Somali government in fighting Al-Shabab, a jihadi insurgent group at war with the federal government in Mogadishu.

A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said worldwide shipping companies had started to become complacent about their security, which could also help explain the rise in piracy incidents.

General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of AFRICOM (United States Africa Command), linked these recent attacks to the drought and ensuing starvation in Somalia.

However, Waldhauser assured the US Senate s armed forces committee in March that he had spoken to Guelleh "and expressed our concerns about some of the things that are important to us about what the Chinese may or may not do".

Mattis on Sunday visited Djibouti to bolster ties with the tiny and impoverished African country that is home to an important base for US counterterrorism forces, including drones.

The White House recently granted the US military broader authority to strike al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants in Somalia.

The U.S. base, which has about 4,000 personnel, is located just miles from a Chinese one, still under construction, which has caused concern to some U.S. officials.

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The United States recently sent a few dozen troops to Somalia to help train members of the Somali National Army. The US backs France's Operation Barkhane, under which its military is fighting Islamists in five countries across the Sahel region - Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso - alongside African allies. This reflects Djibouti's strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. "They support multiple U.S. combat command", a senior defence official said, referring to an airfield close to the camp, from which the USA military operates drones.

America's Camp Lemonnier, set up after the 9/11 attack, is vital to United States operations in Somalia, says the AFP.

The US operates drone aircraft from Djibouti for surveillance and combat missions against extremist groups in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere in the region.

Djibouti, a tiny country located between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, has also been key in worldwide efforts to counter piracy over the past ten years.

Mattis came to Djibouti on the grounds of strengthening binational relations with Eastern African countries and increasing the cooperation in the field of security operations.

The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014. Saudi Arabia also wants to establish a base there.

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