U.S. Intelligence-Gathering on ISIS Threatened in Africa

  • The increasingly erratic conduct of one of Africa’s more despotic rulers, as well as his tilt toward China, is raising serious concerns about the future of a vital American intelligence-gathering base that plays a central role in targeting al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants in countries such as Yemen and Syria.
  • It will be the first time a head of state has been ordered to appear before a British court since King Charles I of England in 1649, who was subsequently beheaded for treason.

The increasingly erratic conduct of one of Africa’s more despotic rulers is raising serious concerns about the future of a vital American intelligence-gathering base that plays a central role in targeting al-Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) militants in countries such as Yemen and Syria.

Successive American administrations — including that of President Barack Obama, who claims to champion greater democracy in Africa — have willingly turned a blind eye to Mr. Guelleh’s dictatorial style, in return for being allowed to operate the Camp Lemonnier military base that is located in the strategically-important African state.

But the unpredictable behaviour of Mr. Guelleh, who has been summoned to make an unprecedented appearance at a London court next month, has prompted senior counter-terrorism officials in Washington to question whether the U.S. can afford to maintain its decade-long alliance with the Djibouti strongman.

In recent months Mr. Guelleh has intensified his efforts to form a strategic partnership with China, which is keen to expand its military presence throughout the African continent. China, which is already contracted to build a railway linking Djibouti to Ethiopia, has negotiated a $400 million deal to develop Djibouti’s port facilities, a development Pentagon officials believe will lead to China establishing its own military presence just a few miles from the highly sensitive Camp Lemonnier complex.

Consequently, senior policymakers in Washington are now hoping to prevent Mr. Guelleh from running for a fourth term in office when the next round of presidential elections are held next year. Certainly, if China continues with its plans to establish a military presence in the Horn of Africa, the Pentagon will have to give serious consideration to relocating some of Camp Lemonnier’s more sensitive operations elsewhere.

If Mr. Guelleh continues with his confrontational approach towards Washington, then Mr. Obama is likely to come under pressure to press for political reform in Djibouti, thereby ending the president’s long-running dictatorship. After all, it was only last July that Mr. Obama, in his keynote speech to the African Union, made a scathing attack on Africa’s culture of presidents-for-life, urging the continent’s leaders to follow the example of George Washington and Nelson Mandela by respecting term limits — a warning is particularly pertinent so far as Mr. Guelleh is concerned.

Full article: U.S. Intelligence-Gathering on ISIS Threatened in Africa (Gatestone Institute)

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