Official: DOD Seeks 'Small Footprint' in Africa

For Djibouti, location is everything.

The small African nation hosts the one forward operating base the United States maintains on the African continent, and that is due to its unique location, said Amanda J. Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs.

Djibouti hosts about 3,000 U.S. service members at Camp Lemonier -- a former French base adjacent to the capital of Djibouti City. The U.S. service members work to build military capabilities with Djibouti and neighboring nations. The base also is a training and logistics hub.

Yet, it is not a model for how the United States will interact on the African continent, Dory said. "The DOD strategy in Africa has moved toward flexible operating concepts," she said in a recent interview. "[We will] focus on maintaining a small footprint on the continent that is flexible and low cost."

The U.S. military footprint will be different in each African nation, the deputy assistant secretary said.

"Each country will work with us to see what capabilities they need, how much they can commit to developing, and how fast they want to work," she said. "They will also work with us to determine the process of working with us."

U.S. troops, she said, will visit these nations for short periods of time for specific tasks or training cycles.

"We do not want permanent bases," Dory said.

The U.S. military effort on the continent is being accepted by many African leaders, she said. When U.S. Africa Command first stood up, there was concern among some leaders that it signified a "militarization" of U.S. foreign policy and a sort of creeping colonialism. Those fears have subsided, she said.

"Most [African] nations welcome our contributions," Dory said.

Djibouti is unique because it lies on the seam between U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Central Command, officials said, and it is situated at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. Vessels transiting through the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean sail close to Djibouti, which boasts a natural harbor and roads that link the interior with the coast.

The country has interest from four U.S. combatant commands -- U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Transportation Command, officials said. In addition, other nations work with the Djiboutian government to ensure security in the area.

Djibouti and Camp Lemonier represent a strategic gold mine, Dory said. But Camp Lemonier, she added, will remain an expeditionary base.

"It will remain an austere base. "We will make improvements for force protection, but you will not see a golf course at Camp Lemonier, ever," she said.



U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (page)

Special Operations Command Africa leads, plans, coordinates and, as directed, executes the full spectrum of Special Operations in U.S. Africa Command's AOR as part of an integrated Theater Strategy to combat terrorism and advance U.S. Africa Command's strategic objectives.

General Linder Assumes Command of US Special Operations Command Africa (article)

General Linder takes command of US Special Operations Command Africa Brigadier General James B. Linder assumed command of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) from Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey during a change of command ceremony

Silent Warrior 2013 Strives to Strengthen Security and Military-to-Military Relationships through Training (article)

Photo Essay: Silent Warrior 2013 strives to strengthen security and military-to-military relationships through training.  

East African Security Forces Host Inaugural Special Operations Conference (article)

Across east Africa, the use of Special Operations Forces as a means to enhance the capability to protect civilians is a growing trend. Each nation has a unique mission and purpose for its SOF component, and no two look exactly the same. However,

Panetta Details Steps Needed to End al-Qaeda Threat (article)

For the United States and its allies, ending the al-Qaida threat calls for a modified military footprint, close work with partners and continued U.S. involvement in regions of the world where violent extremism has flourished, Defense Secretary Leon