Pentagon chief in Djibouti to bolster ties
According to Rapporteur Report From, Press TV, Link, After arriving at Camp Lemonnier on Sunday, the Pentagon chief headed to the capital Djibouti City to meet with the country’s president and defense minister. He will also meet with General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of US troops in Africa.
Touted by military experts as one of the most strategically important US military bases abroad, Camp Lemonnier has been dramatically expanded since it was built in 2001. The number of personnel stationed there, for example, has jumped from 900 to 5,000 since 2002.
The US has been using a fleet of drones stationed at the base to conduct bombing missions against several Muslim countries in the region..
The visit comes less than a month after the administration of US President Donald Trump allowed the US Africa Command to expand its airstrikes in Somalia upon a request by the Pentagon.
The US military claims the airstrikes are mainly aimed at protecting Pentagon advisers operating on the ground with Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.
However, official reports show that the airstrikes in Somalia, Yemen and other countries often lead to civilian casualties.
The new Pentagon directive allows the US military in Africa to carry out attacks without waiting for Washington’s approval, officials say.
Lemonnier was so crucial to US military operations that in 2014, the Pentagon signed an agreement worth $70 million per year to extend its lease through 2044.
Satellite imagery has revealed the secret expansion of a US military base in Africa. (Photo: Google Earth)
Washington has also deployed a number of drones to the Chabelley Airfield, located some 6 miles (9.5km) to the southwest of Djibouti’s capital.
“For (the Pentagon) Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley are critical in terms of logistics. They support multiple US combat command,” a senior US military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity..
In his meetings, Mattis was also expected to address the issue of China’s growing influence in Djibouti.
Beijing has been in the process of establishing its first overseas military base in the small Horn of Africa country just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a decision that Waldhauser says would raise “security concerns.”