Trump Using Military to Protect Somali Oil
Missile strikes by US drones against al-Shabab and al-Qaeda leaders are "vital" and will continue, according to the government of Djibouti, from where the controversial drone strikes are launched.
Washington has been building up a large military base in Djibouti and training regional armies to fight al-Shabab in Somalia.
The Pentagon's recently created East Africa Response Force (EARF) is here. Its soldiers flew at short notice to South Sudan in December to protect the US embassy and its staff, a lesson learned from the catastrophic attack on the poorly defended US consulate in Benghazi.
The US taskforce here, under the catchy title of "Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa," or CJTF-HOA, was set up nearly 12 years ago.
Al-Shabab in Somalia have become proficient in laying roadside bombs and have launched attacks beyond their borders in Kenya and Uganda, while al-Qaeda in Yemen has three times succeeded in getting explosive devices on board international flights. All this, while CJTF-HOA was doubling in size.
Djibouti, an impoverished former French colony, has close links to the region's two most troubled nations, Yemen and Somalia, where US boots on the ground would not be popular.
But Djibouti has decided to throw in its lot with Washington and the West, becoming effectively the region's garrison town.
The French still maintain a major base here with over 2,000 servicemen and women, their Mirage fighter jets thundering down the runway shared with the civilian international airport.
The Germans, Italians and Japanese are all here, conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and beyond.
But the biggest presence by far is American - there are more than 4,000 people on the base at Camp Lemonnier.
Housed in a compound within a compound are hundreds of highly secretive Special Forces operatives from JSOC - US Joint Special Operations Command.
They bypass normal camp authority, taking their orders direct from their own command in Florida.
One controversial tool in JSOC's arsenal is the use of missile strikes by unmanned Reaper drones.
Until last September they took off from this base but after a number of crashes and near misses the Djibouti government asked the Americans to move them out to a desert runway.
The drone strikes have continued, sometimes killing civilians and attracting condemnation from human rights groups as "extrajudicial killings".
The drone strikes against militant leaders look set to continue.
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