Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa

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The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is "a unit based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti--a sweltering 88-acre outpost by the Gulf of Aden once inhabited by the French Foreign Legion. Sitting at the end of a garbage-strewn dirt road leading out of the capital, the camp is where 1,800 U.S. troops, including hundreds of special operations forces, have since May [2003] based their missions covering seven countries in Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. And according to the plans being drawn up in unadorned cubicles back at the Pentagon, it is the U.S. military mission in the Horn of Africa—even more than the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq—that is a window into the next decade in the war on terrorism."

"In the Horn of Africa, much of the task force's focus is on humanitarian projects like building schools, wells, and roads. It is not done out of altruism: The aim is to project a better image of the United States and make the ground less fertile for the seeds of Islamic radicalism. During another era, it was known as 'winning hearts and minds.' In April, when their Marine brethren were dropping bombs on Iraqis, marines in the Horn of Africa delivered 15,000 pairs of shoes to children in Djibouti city.

"There are, of course, plenty of bullets to complement the bread. Hundreds of special operations forces and CIA operatives based at Camp Lemonier have the mission of capturing or killing the biggest stars in al Qaeda's constellation and have the authority to launch covert missions throughout much of the Horn of Africa. Last November, a missile fired from a CIA-operated Predator drone killed an al Qaeda operative on a desert highway in Yemen, and intelligence officials are monitoring African airspace and traffic in coastal waters to set the stage for future operations."

"Honoring Bob Hope. Yet much of the work is already underway and has a momentum all its own. At dusty Camp Lemonier, Djiboutian contractors are constructing a new gymnasium for the U.S. troops; and soldiers and marines can escape the heat by ducking into a new air-conditioned dining facility, recently christened the Bob Hope Chow Hall. Standing inside the Joint Operations Center, a stark warehouse where Task Force Horn of Africa plans and executes its counterterrorism missions, Master Gunnery Sgt. Barry Walker looks around and sees the future. 'It's bare bones, but it's going to be what we need,' he says. 'The days of small-city U.S.A. are gone.'

"Which means troops based in Djibouti need to seek their entertainment off base. Some spend their free evenings wandering the markets of Djibouti city; others gamble at a local hotel. Some even break the monotony of base life by participating in joint training exercises on the Gulf of Aden with the French (yes, the French) military. In the end, most can recite the exact day and hour that their tour in the Horn of Africa ends, and one Marine officer is even writing a book about the experience of being deployed in Djibouti. The book's title: The Year of the Short Straw."

Source: US News & World Report (September 28, 2003) (Yahoo! News link).


"The U.S. military presence in Djibouti is a useful illustration. As part of the war on terrorism, U.S. troops now occupy Camp Lemonier, a previously abandoned encampment in this remote enclave on the Horn of Africa. As of early January 2003, 900 American servicemen were deployed there (mostly Marines), including SOF elements, with another 400 personnel offshore. Formed into the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)-Horn of Africa, they are positioned primarily to wage war on al Qaeda elements and their supporters in Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. The number of adversaries operating in the adjoining areas is difficult to assess, and even small numbers will likely take a long time to track down. As in Afghanistan, the expectation is that the U.S. presence will be on the Horn for several years, with most personnel rotating on 180-day tours. Without discounting the deterrent and disruptive roles against terrorists the CJTF plays through its daily presence, this is an example of the types of manpower and other resource trades inherent in the offensive war on terrorism involving U.S. forces (Garamone, 2002a; Garamone, 2002b; Stattler, 2003)."

Source: "The U.S. Army and the Offensive War on Terrorism" by Bruce R. Nardulli, RAND Corporation.

Department of Defense News Briefings, Etc.

In Africa, a small US force has been deployed in tiny Djibouti since the spring of 2002. Located at the strategic strait where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti is a short flight from Yemen, the homeland of many al Qaeda leaders. It is close to Sudan and Somalia, two other nations with histories of Islamic fundamentalism.
Djibouti's Camp Lemonier, home to the US Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, is another prototype of the new American frontier post. A compound of cinder block buildings at one end of a civilian airport, it makes Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel look palatial. A tent serves as the medical facility. Videos provide what passes for entertainment.
Excerpt from the Briefing:
Q: Well, no, if there's evidence that they (i.e. relocated Al Qaeda) [are in the Horn of Africa], I mean -- they're there or not. I mean, can you -- and why can't you tell us if they're there or not? I mean, that's what the whole point of this is, right?
Defense Official: No, the whole point of the briefing here is to help you put some -- this into context. We are not going to discuss current intelligence, nor are we going to speculate on future operations. So if your expectation is that because it's just on background, that we're going to talk about intelligence, current intelligence, then I'm sorry. But the -- (cross talk) -- but we are not going to....
Excerpt from the Briefing:
Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said 700 to 800 Marines have set up in the African nation of Djibouti to help rout possible terrorist forces in the region.
U.S. CENTCOM is responsible for military operations in an area including the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. He noted during a Pentagon media briefing today that the Marines are in Djibouti as an extension of America's war on terrorism.
He said American leaders never planned to limit the war on terrorism to Afghanistan.
"We said a long time ago (that) first of all, we're going to rout the terrorists out of Afghanistan, get rid of the Taliban. We also said that there are going to be some friendly nations, and we're going to want to work with them in order to help them help themselves get over the terrorist problem," Franks said. "And we also said it may be necessary from time to time to coerce others to get rid of their terrorist problem."
He said the U.S. military has "security arrangements or engagement opportunities" with many countries in the region, including Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. ... "Having that force there gives us the ability to increase our exercise work with all those nations," Franks said.
The Navy is sending one of its most technologically advanced ships to anchor a new U.S.-led task force aimed at rooting out suspected terrorists in and around northeastern Africa, military officials said on Wednesday. The command and control ship, the Mount Whitney, initially will serve as headquarters of the so-called Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, said Marine Maj. Steve Cox, the new Unit's spokesman. The deployment will mark the first to the region by a previously unscheduled U.S. warship in the run up to a possible U.S. attack on Iraq to force United Nations-recognized disarmament. The task force will keep tabs on an area "identified as a transit route for terrorist organizations operating in and around Afghanistan and the Arabian peninsula," added Cox. Its goal is to deny new havens and support bases for "transnational terrorists," he said.(Reuters 2228 061102 Nov 02 GMT)
Excerpt from the Briefing:
Q: Mr. Secretary, General, last week General Franks hinted at kind of expansion and formalization of our presence in the Horn of Africa area in the war on terrorism. Have any decisions been made that you can discuss? And can you sum up what our interest is in the Horn of Africa area? ...
Myers: We have several interests. One is that the Horn of Africa turns out to be a fairly busy place in terms of the flow of people and other instruments of war: weapons, explosives, perhaps weapons of mass destruction, that those sorts of things -- certainly intelligence -- that it flows either through the waters there or through some of the countries.
Second thing is that in the Horn of Africa there are a number of areas that you can call ungoverned or at least not under some government's tight control; where terrorists can gather and either do operational planning or training, and so forth. And so, we're very interested in the area for that reason and positioned forces there to take appropriate action. Going beyond that in terms of what the forces are going to do would get into the operational details, which I don't think I can do.
Q: Have you formally decided on a creation of a special task force for the Horn?
Myers: There is a task force that is -- yes....
Q: What will the task force name be? ...
Myers: I'll get you that.
Excerpts from the Press Release:
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commander, Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, met with officials from Djibouti today at the CJTF-HOA headquarters aboard USS Mount Whitney in the Gulf of Aden.
Maj. Gen. Fathi Ahmed Hussein, commander of Djibouti's armed forces, headed the 12-member delegation. U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto accompanied the delegation. ...
Since arriving in the region Dec. 12, [2002], task force officials have met with coalition military commanders and host-nation officials, establishing a dialogue with key leaders throughout the Horn of Africa region. ... Sattler met with Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih. The two discussed the mutual goal of defeating terrorism and ways to enhance ties between Yemen and the command. ... Yemen's Interior Minister Rashad al-Alimi on security cooperation initiatives and with Defense Minister Abdullah Ali Eleiwah on military cooperation between Yemeni forces and the task force. ... The combined joint task force has also hosted French and Spanish military leaders. Sattler had productive meetings with Lt. Gen. Jean- Patrick Gaviard, director of operations for the French Joint Staff and with Rear Adm. Juan Moreno, commander of Combined Task Force-150. CTF-150 is the coalition naval flotilla made up of French, Spanish, German, British and U.S. warships patrolling the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean areas around the Horn of Africa."
On May 8, 2003, the Pentagon announced that the USS Mt. Whitney will drop off command personnel and equipment at Camp Lemonier in the nation of Djibouti--already home to some 1,800 US troops and civilian personnel--before returning from a tour of the Horn of Africa. The announcement follows little-noticed remarks by NATO Supreme Commander US Gen. James Jones that Washington plans to boost its troop presence in West Africa, a troubled but oil-rich region that government estimates say may be the source of up to 25% of US petroleum imports by 2015, up from 15% in 2000....
Without mentioning oil, Jones said the region includes 'large, ungoverned areas...that are clearly the new routes of narco-trafficking, terrorists' training, and hotbeds of instability.'...
Camp Lemonier is to serve as a model for a similar program in West Africa, where Jones said NATO is planning to deploy a prototype rapid-reaction force of between 2,000 and 3,000 units--including air, ground and sea forces--as early as October. He did not say where the base would be sited.... Major oil producers in the region include Nigeria, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea, where Washington plans to re-open its embassy eight years after closing it. Major deposits have recently been found in the Gulf of Guinea, now believed to hold as much as 30 billion barrels of reserves.

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) web site.

Mission: "The mission of CJTF-HOA is to disrupt and defeat international Terrorist groups posing an imminent threat to the U.S., its allies, or their interests. CJTF-HOA will focus on denying safe havens, external support and material assistance for terrorist activity within The Horn of Africa region. Additionally, CJTF-HOA will be prepared to counter the re-emergence of transnational terrorism in the region by providing security assistance in support of civil-military operations (CMO) and support of international organizations working to enhance long-term stability of the region."

Fact Sheets

  • HISTORY: The core Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa headquarters was formed from elements of the 2d Marine Division in October 2002. The headquarters sailed from Morehead City, N.C. on Nov. 13, 2002, aboard the USS Mount Whitney joining forces already at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti to form what is the current organization of CJTF-HOA.
  • OPERATIONS AND ACTIVITIES: CJTF-HOA personnel are regularly engaged in wide variety of activities spanning the full spectrum of support functions required to sustain counter-terrorism operations in the region.

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