US Set to Expand Counter-Terrorism Base in Africa

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The U.S. is expanding its counter-terrorism military task force in the Horn of Africa, the strategically located region linking the Arabian Peninsula with African countries where terrorists can lie low and plan future operations.

In what a spokesman said was the "next logical step" for the operation of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), about 400 American soldiers will soon be transferred from the force's floating headquarters in the Gulf of Aden to a shore base in Djibouti.

Approximately 1,400 U.S. troops and military personnel from allies in the Horn of Africa are already based in Djibouti, a tiny country on the Gulf of Aden neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

In a statement, the spokesman said the U.S. counter-terrorism warship, the USS Mt. Whitney, will leave the Horn of Africa region in mid-May, returning to its home port in Norfolk, Va.

The headquarters personnel and equipment will be moved ashore into facilities at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.

The changes did not signal any change in focus for coalition counter-terrorism operations in the region, it said.

"The CJTF mission is - and will continue to be - to detect, disrupt and defeat transnational terrorism in conjunction with coalition partners across the Horn of Africa region."

The statement said the task force's expansion would enhance its capacity to connect to more coalition partners and agencies and move information faster than in the past.

The force was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to oversee counter-terrorism operations in a region encompassing Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen.

The Gulf of Aden was seen as a key route for terrorists slipping away from stepped-up U.S. anti-terrorism operations in Southern Asia and the Middle East.

In its recent report on global terrorism, the State Department praised Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia for their support in the counter-terror mission in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula.

It warned that prevailing conditions still made many countries in Africa desirable locations for terrorists.

These included a shortage of financial and technical resources; areas of instability and prolonged violence; corruption; weak judicial and financial regulatory systems; and the existence of porous borders and unregulated coastlines.

Gen. James Jones, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's new senior military commander, told reporters in Washington recently that the U.S. and its NATO allies would soon begin focusing greater attention on instability in Africa.

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