The Republic of Djibouti "borders the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, with Ethiopia and Somalia as two of its neighboring nations. While small in population, with 486,530 residents, the former French territory stands as a key locale in the fight against terrorism.
The country, which was a territory of France until 1977, also has a French naval base and garrison which generates about have of the country's income. France keeps thousands of soldiers in the country along with warships, airplanes, and armoured vehicles. Djibouti is of major strategic importance because it is a gateway for Red Sea shipping.  
U.S. military base - Camp Lemonier
Camp Lemonier has 1,800 personnel that coordinate U.S. military operations in Djibouti and the neighboring countries of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Yemen. MSNBC wrote in December 2003 that the region was "largely ignored before the war on terrorism. The region is now one of the war’s main theaters.
"Djibouti, an arid nation the size of Massachusetts, has long been a strategic link between Africa and the Middle East, with trade ships sailing along the coast for centuries. The French carved the colony out of the Horn of Africa to control the point where the Red Sea opens into the Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest waterways in the world.
"The French Foreign Legion still keeps a brigade in Djibouti, and French forces train in the desert year-round as French Mirage fighter jets scream overhead. U.S. forces arrived in June 2002 at Camp Lemonier — a vacant, former Legion post — and the task force began operations from the tented camp last December.
"The helicopters deliver troops and equipment throughout the region. The infantrymen have spent months training with Ethiopian troops and hope to eventually conduct joint exercises and border patrol operations. The civil affairs unit repairs clinics and schools as well as provides medical and veterinarian assistance to Muslims in rural areas, where terrorists may be recruiting new members by spreading anti-American messages.
"Responsibility for stopping ships possibly carrying al-Qaida members and weapons falls to a fleet of six to seven NATO ships, known as Combined Task Force-150. A French admiral is currently in command of the force, which boards several ships a week, said Lt. Cdr. Dean Matusek, a Navy liaison officer at Camp Lemonier." 
Camp Lemonier is expanding in size and hiring more local people. U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brett Hart wrote in January 2007, 'Construction teams are expanding Camp Lemonier from its current size of 97 acres to nearly 500 acres adding to the quality of life for camp personnel. This improvement could also increase job opportunities to Djibouti City residents.
'"Quality of life will go up tremendously," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Darryl Centanni, the executive officer for Camp Lemonier. According to Cmdr. Centanni, approximately 800 people from Djibouti currently work at Camp Lemonier. "We are looking at turning some military high skills job over to Djiboutians," said Cmdr. Centanni. "Jobs are precious. By having a job [Djiboutians] can improve quality of life. Everyone wants to be able to provide for their families."' 
- The government closely controls all electronic media. Private newspapers and other publications are generally allowed to circulate freely, but journalists exercise self-censorship. The official media are uncritical of the government. A powerful mediumwave (AM) transmitter in the country broadcasts US-sponsored Arabic-language Radio Sawa programmes to East Africa and Arabia. Local FM relays carry the BBC (99.2) and Voice of America.
- Ismael Omar Guelleh, President, won second term in 2005 election with no opposition candidates
Related SourceWatch articles
- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa
- Horn of Africa
- U.S. Africa Command
- U.S. military bases overseas
- war on terrorism
- Djibouti, National Geographic, accessed March 2008.
- Country profile: Djibouti, BBC, accessed March 2008.
- "A quiet battle against militants in ‘Horn’", MSNBC, December 23, 2003.
- U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Brett Hart, "Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, expands both in size and job opportunities", Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, January 23, 2007.
- "US 'used Djibouti' in rendition", BBC, April 5, 2006.