An American Outpost in Africa

President George W. Bush recently postponed a planned swing through Africa scheduled for January so that he could oversee the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf. But that doesn't mean Africa has fallen off the Administration's radar screen.

In fact, the Horn of Africa is becoming an important military outpost for the U.S. war on terrorism. A contingent of 900 U.S. Army troops, Special Operations forces, and CIA paramilitaries has taken over an abandoned French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti, just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden and a hideaway for terrorists forced out of Afghanistan. The unmanned Predator drone that fired a missile on a car carrying alleged al Qaeda operatives in a remote part of Yemen in November is widely believed to have come from the Djibouti base, known as Camp Lemonier.

The outpost is the first in Africa since Cold War-era Strategic Air Command bases in Morocco and Libya, and intelligence listening posts in Ethiopia were closed in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, talks are under way with Ethiopia and Eritrea about additional bases. Nations throughout the region are being urged to share intelligence, grant overflight rights, and allow U.S. access to military airfields for a war on Iraq. The war on terrorism is also forcing the U.S. to pay more attention to Africa's failed states. Djibouti may prove a key base from which to observe Somalia, for example, which has no central government and which analysts fear could harbor terrorists.

By Paul Magnusson in Washington

Edited by Rose Brady

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