Small Wars Journal

Open Source Backgrounder: Djibouti, Foreign Military Bases on the Horn of Africa - Who is There? What are They Up To?

Share this Post

Open Source Backgrounder: Djibouti, Foreign Military Bases on the Horn of Africa - Who is There? What are They Up To?  

 

De Faakto Intelligence Research Observatory

 

Background & Analysis

 

Djibouti is a small dusty coastal nation on the Horn of Africa that has the distinction of being located at the southern entrance of the Red Sea on route to the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti is a mandatory passage way for important maritime trade routes; making it strategic terra firma, sought after by the most powerful militaries in the world. Djibouti is ideal for navel security operations, anti-piracy patrols, counter terror drone strikes, air force operations, counter terror special operations, intelligence-surveillance, peacekeeping & humanitarian aid. (Politico, 2018) With bases in Djibouti nations can protect commerce and trade, guard maritime oil shipping routes and facilitate extraction missions for expatriates working abroad.   Djibouti is close to hotbeds of turmoil in Africa. Countries like Somalia, and Yemen in the Middle East, necessitate the need for proximal military bases. (BBC, 2018) Furthermore, Djibouti presents a battle space, suitable for proxy war, far from opposing homelands should a conflict occur between nations garrisoned there.  (Politico, 2018) The central government of Djibouti leases prime military property to the United States, China, France, Italy and Japan and will soon host Saudi Arabia and is considering India. (Reuters, 2016) In return for leased military bases the barren nation with few natural resources, receives cash, business opportunities and infrastructure. (Politico, 2018)

 

Who is Operating Military Bases in Djibouti?

  • United States of America
  • France
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • China

Future Prospective Military Base Operators in Djibouti

  • Saudi Arabia (agreement to a build base in Djibouti)
  • India (looking to secure base in the future)

Military Bases in Djibouti, Hosting Other Nations  

  • France hosts German & Spanish military personnel
  • United States hosts British military personnel
  • Japan has entered a co-operative agreement to share base(s) with India

Types of Missions Executed by Militaries Based in Djibouti

  • Anti-piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
  • Humanitarian aid missions
  • Peacekeeping missions
  • Tactical & strategic military operations
  • Navel ops
  • Air Force ops
  • Drone activities
  • Spec-ops
  • Anti-terror ops-combat terrorist threats in Yemen and the Horn of Africa
  • Intelligence
  • Surveillance

USA-Camp Lemonnier

  • Camp Lemonnier is a former military base established as a garrison for the French foreign Legion and is now leased by the United States Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa.  There are 4000 U.S. soldiers and contractors based there. (BBC, 2018) Since occupying Lemonnier the United States has established a second base at Chabelley Airfield for drone operations.  This has reduced aviation congestion at Lemonnier with conventional air force operations (Politico, 2018)

About Camp Lemonnier

  • The United States pays $63 million annually to lease the base
  • Leased by Djibouti to the United States in 2001, along with the right to use the neighboring airport and port facilities
  • Lemonnier is a Naval Expeditionary Base, situated next to Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City
  • Camp Lemonnier also serves as a hub for aerial operations in the Persian Gulf region
  • The only permanent U.S. military base in Africa
  • Lemonnier provides support for combat readiness-security for ships & aircraft detachments, personnel for regional and combatant command requirements
  • Enables operations in the Horn of Africa while fostering positive U.S.-African Nation relations
  • Lemonnier is a U.S. Navy led installation operated by Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia via U.S. Naval Forces Africa and Commander, Navy Installations Command
  • Camp Lemonnier supports joint and allied forces military, civilian personnel and U.S. Department of Defense contractors (CNIC, 2018)
  • The base provides employment for approximately 100 local and third country nation workers

France

  • France is a former colonial ruler of Djibouti
  • Formerly known as French Somaliland (1896–1967) and the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967–77), the country took Djibouti as its name when it gained independence from France on June 27, 1977 (Britannica, 2018)   
  • France reaffirmed its commitment to the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Djibouti, through the 2011 Defence Cooperation Treaty (France Diplomatie, 2018)
  • The Treaty sets out the operational facilities granted to stationed French forces, which make up Frances largest military base abroad with some 1,450 troops (France Diplomatie, 2018)
  • Djibouti is France’s biggest Foreign Legion deployment
  • France has warships, aircraft and armoued vehicles in Djibouti, (NEWS.com.au, 2017)
  • France hosts German & Spanish military forces
  • French Air Forces launch operations from the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (BBC, 2018)

Italy

  • Italy has its own base in Djibouti
  • This infrastructure is the first real operational logistic base of the Italian armed forces outside the national borders
  • Considered by the Italian government “a permanent outpost in an area of ​​enormous strategic importance” (Il Sole 24 ORE, 2013)

Italian Base Garrisons

  • Approximately 300 personnel
  • Navy riflemen protecting merchant ships transiting the Indian Ocean
  • Special Forces teams
  • Carabinieri (Il Sole 24 ORE, 2013)

Italian Military Operations

  • Fighting terrorism, close to Somalia and Yemen
  • Surveillance of mercantile traffic
  • Deploy dozens of instructors and parachutists in Mogadishu as part of the European training mission in favor of the Somali army
  • Military engagement in anti-terrorist operations against Shabaab Islamists or al-Qaeda exponents
  • liberation of hostages, kidnap and ransom operations
  • Carabinieri train local police (Il Sole 24 ORE, 2013)

Japan

  • Djibouti is Japan's first foreign military base
  • Located next to the U.S. military base, Camp Lemonnier and the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport on a 12 hectare lot (BBC, 2018)
  • Port facilities for a single navel destroyer
  • The Japanese Self Defense Force presence consists of 180 Troops with barracks

Japanese Military Operations

  • Navel operations
  • Anti-piracy, Somali coast & Gulf of Aden
  • Navel peacekeeping operations
  • Navel resupply
  • Peacekeeping-United Nations-South Sudan (Reuters, 2016)
  • Humanitarian missions (Reuters, 2016)
  • Support of multinational operations (Island Society, 2017)
  • Air Force capability-patrol planes
  • Access to joint civilian airport operations & American, French, and Italian expeditionary bases (Island Society, 2017)
  • Japan's strategic central location quick reaction force, to rescue and evacuate Japanese interests working in Africa
  • Countering Chinese power and influence in the region (The Trumpet, 2018)
  • Promote Japanese Regional influence (Quartz Africa, 2017)
  • Japanese return to global power & influence, post seventy years of pacifism (Reuters, 2016)

India

  • India is working on options for securing a military base of operations in Djibouti
  • Japan and India are discussing India’s use of Japanese military facilities in Djibouti (Business Insider, 2018)
  • If India successfully acquires a military base in Djibouti all major global powers will have military presence in East Africa (Politico, 2018)

Indian Military Bases of Influence in Region

  • As an alternative to Indian military presence in Djibouti, India has ambitiously secured strategic military bases in Oman, Singapore and Seychelles (Politico, 2018)

- Oman

  • Indian navel facilities near the Strait of Hormuz, this is of strategic importance because more then 30% of seaborne oil exports pass through the waterways daily (CNBC, 2018)

- Seychelles

  • India has secured a 20 year contract with Seychelles
  • Indian Air Force will develop an airstrip for operations
  • Indian Navy will build a jetty for navel assets (CNBC, 2018)

- Singapore

  • India and Singapore have bilateral agreements to utilize one another’s military bases 

United Kingdom

  • Military personnel from the United Kingdom are stationed in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier in support of U.S. Military operations (The Guardian, 2014)

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia is about to complete its first-ever foreign military base in Djibouti (Asharq Al-Awsat, 2018)

Saudi Military Operations

  • Anti-piracy
  • Anti-terrorism
  • Stabilize & Secure business confidence in the region, encourage foreign investment
  • Protect oil commerce
  • Increase Saudi presence & influence
  • Deployment of troops to Yemen via the Red Sea (Asharq Al-Awsat, 2018)
  • Reduce war costs spent by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition in Yemen
  • Enables Saudi to attack or contain the sea & air across the Gulf of Aden
  • Detect and intercept Iranian supplies to Houthi militias passing through the Somali coast

China

  • Djibouti is China's first overseas naval logistics center
  • China's military base is located within miles of the United States Camp Lemonnier
  • The base provides access to Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport for Chinese military operations
  • The Peoples Liberation Army Navy is said to have secured exclusive use to at least one of the ports berths (CFR, 2018)

Chinese Military Operations

  • Chinese interest in the “far seas” (CFR, 2018)
  • China’s quest to have a truly international blue-water navy (East Asia Forum, 2018)
  • Anti-piracy operations-escort missions-protection of trade routes in the Indian & South China Sea
  • Anti-terror operations
  • United Nations peacekeeping missions across Africa
  • Chinese Navel peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations
  • Evacuation of Chinese citizens working in Africa, in times of conflict (BBC, 2018)
  • Navel security mandate; to protect and defend Chinese growing interests in East Africa and the Indian Ocean (East Asia Forum, 2018)
  • Military experimentation, an opportunity for Chinese military forces to experience and learn from global operations

Other Interests Secured by China's Military in Djibouti

  • China's Silk Road Economic Belt
  • Chinese oil interests in South Sudan-Crude oil exported by ship to China from Africa and the Middle East (62 per cent of China’s total crude oil imports) (East Asia Forum, 2018)
  • China’s capital exports to Africa
  • China’s stock of overseas direct investment in Africa (East Asia Forum, 2018)
  • Djibouti-Ethiopia railway, built by China
  • Chinese nationals working in the region (BBC, 2018)

Resources

 

Japan to expand Djibouti military base to counter Chinese influence-Nobuhiro Kubo-

Reuters (2016) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-military-djibouti/japan-to-expand-djibouti-military-base-to-counter-chinese-influence-idUSKCN12D0C4

 

Why are there so many military bases in Djibouti? Tomi Oladipo-BBC (2015) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33115502

 

The Coming Wars-Bruno Maçães-Politico (2018) https://www.politico.eu/blogs/the-coming-wars/2018/01/the-most-valuable-military-real-estate-in-the-world/

 

CNIC-U.S. Navy (2018) https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnreurafswa/installations/camp_lemonnier_djibouti.html

 

Tiny African country becomes playground for world super powers-Megan Palin-NEWS.com.au (2017) https://www.news.com.au/world/africa/tiny-african-country-becomes-playground-for-world-super-powers/news-story/0fa72ddc2df6efc9ac437d8681977fd6

 

Djibouti-Peter Schraeder & Catherine Cutbill-Encyclopaedia Britannica (2018) https://www.britannica.com/place/Djibouti

 

France Diplomatie-Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (2018) https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/djibouti/france-and-djibouti/

 

Japan to expand Djibouti military base to counter Chinese influence- Nobuhiro Kubo-Reuters (2016) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-military-djibouti/japan-to-expand-djibouti-military-base-to-counter-chinese-influence-idUSKCN12D0C4

 

Japanese Military to Expand Base in Djibouti-Daniel Di Santo-The Trumpet (2018) https://www.thetrumpet.com/17965-japanese-military-to-expand-base-in-djibouti

 

How a tiny African country became the world’s key military base-Abdi Latif Dahir-Quartz Africa (2017) https://qz.com/africa/1056257/how-a-tiny-african-country-became-the-worlds-key-military-base/

 

The Expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti-Island Society-Michael Edward Walsh (2017) http://islandssociety.org/2017/11/23/the-future-expansion-of-the-japan-self-defense-force-base-in-djibouti-michael-edward-walsh/

 

2 of Asia's biggest militaries are working on a deal that could give them an edge over China-Christopher Woody-Business Insider (2018) https://www.businessinsider.com/japan-india-talk-logistics-and-base-sharing-deal-amid-china-tensions-2018-10

 

UK troops working with US military at base for Yemen drone operations-Owen Bowcott-The Guardian (2014) https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/12/uk-troops-us-base-djibouti-drones-yemen-mod-reveals

 

Italy opens a military base in Djibouti-Gianadrea Gaiani-Il Sole 24 ORE (2013) https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/notizie/2013-10-25/l-italia-apre-base-militare-gibuti-111135.shtml?uuid=ABnNDIZ&refresh_ce=1

 

Djibouti on the Rise as Hub for Foreign Military Bases in Africa- Sahwqi al-Rayyes-Asharq Al-Awsat (2018) https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1390991/djibouti-rise-hub-foreign-military-bases-africa

 

China’s Djibouti military base the first of many- Jeffrey Becker & Erica Downs-East Asia Forum (2018) http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/06/27/chinas-djibouti-military-base-the-first-of-many/

 

China’s Strategy in Djibouti: Mixing Commercial and Military Interests- Monica Wang-Council of Foreign Relations (2018) https://www.cfr.org/blog/chinas-strategy-djibouti-mixing-commercial-and-military-interests

 

 

Categories: Africa - Horn of Africa

About the Author(s)

De Faakto is an intelligence research observatory that monitors open sources & develops situational awareness intelligence products that support the defense & security industries, emergency first responders and allied services. De Faakto is founded by a former soldier, intelligence analyst and paramedic with experience in land, air ambulance and overseas military operations.