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The Military United States

A Small Secret Airstrip In Africa Is the Future of America's Way of War 139

HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that the Pentagon is quietly building up a small airstrip in a remote region of east Africa that is a complex microcosm of how Washington runs military operations overseas — and how America's way of war will probably look for the foreseeable future. Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti but the small airport is the hub for America's drone operations in the nearby hotspots of Somalia and Yemen as part of its war against Islamic militants. "The U.S. military is being pressured into considering the adoption of more of a lily pad basing model in the wake of so much turbulence and warfare across the region," says Dr. Geoffrey Gresh. "Djibouti is a small, relatively safe ally that enables the U.S. special operators to carry out missions effectively across the continent." In September 2013, the Pentagon announced it was moving the pilotless aircraft from its main base at Camp Lemonnier to Chabelley with almost no fanfare. Africom and the Pentagon jealously guard information about their outposts in Africa, making it impossible to ascertain even basic facts — like a simple count — let alone just how many are integral to JSOC operations, drone strikes, and other secret activities. However a map in a Pentagon report indicates that there were 10 MQ-1 Predator drones and four larger, more far-ranging MQ-9 Reapers based at Camp Lemonnier in June 2012 before the move to Chabelley.

The Pentagon does not list Chabelley in its annual Base Structure Report, the only official compendium of American military facilities around the world. "The Chebelley base [is] a reflection of the growing presence of the U.S. military in Africa," says Dr. David Vine, author of 'Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World". "The [U.S.] military has gone to great lengths to disguise and downplay its growing presence in Africa generally in the hopes of avoiding negative attention and protests both in the U.S. and in African countries wary of the colonial-esque presence of foreign troops." American drones fly regular missions from Chabelley, an airstrip the French run with the approval of the Djiboutian government. Washington pays Djibouti for access to Paris' outpost. Part of the reason for this circuitous chain of responsibility could be the fact that the Pentagon's drone missions are often controversial. Critics contend targeted strikes against militants are illegal under American and international law and tantamount to assassination. "The military is easily capable of adapting to change, but they don't like to stop anything they feel is making their lives easier, or is to their benefit. And this certainly is, in their eyes, a very quick, clean way of doing things. It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan."
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A Small Secret Airstrip In Africa Is the Future of America's Way of War

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:18PM (#51326105)

    Why the heck did a purely-political article like this one end up on the front page of Slashdot?!

    Is it just to stir up argument, to try to get more ad impressions?

    It's hilarious that we see so many good Slashdot comments modded "Troll" or "Flamebait" so often, when it's stories like this that are far worse than those comments ever are.

    And before anyone wastes their time pointing out that this submission is about drones, let me remind you that it isn't. It's about nothing more than the politics around drones. The technology itself is playing second fiddle in this story, well behind the politics.

    Enough with the political articles, Hugh and the editors. We want real stories here, not junk like this!

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:26PM (#51326133)

    ... basing any assets at remote locations in Africa [youtube.com]

  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:29PM (#51326151)

    "Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti"

    So much for the secret base

    • Re:Secret base? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @11:47PM (#51327005)

      So much for the secret base

      It was never a secret. Anybody that cares has long known that America runs drone ops out of Djibouti. We also have an artillery range there. When I was a Marine, we made a training stop in Djibouti. The people there were very friendly and very pro-American, which surprised me since I had never before met any friendly pro-American French speakers.

      • Re:Secret base? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jack Griffin ( 3459907 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @01:33AM (#51327329)

        The French have always been pro-America since the war of Independence, but this suffered a massive hit due to the awesome diplomacy skills of your previous President. You did say you're an ex-Marine, so maybe you've only experienced the post George W Bush version of the French?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The population is also 90% Muslim, and they have a somewhat saner "life + 30 years" copyright term. Interesting country.

      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        Yeah, I'd presumed it wasn't. I was mostly taking a shot at the click bait headline.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Oh? I hate to do it but it is inactive Marine Not "was a Marine."

        Yeah, I hate it too. Sometimes, just to piss off some friends, I'll call myself a former Marine. That's always good for a tussle.

        Anyhow, found out why I'm sick. I have pneumonia. It would appear that I have probably had it for some time.

        At any rate... What was your MOS? I spent eight years. The first was 0311 for about half. Then I switched to 3531 which spanned my re-up, per "guarantee" and finished out my tranquil days as 5814 which mostly

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Well, I fucked that one up. The FFL typically speak highly of the USMC - in case you're curious.

  • Jah booty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:33PM (#51326171) Journal
    The problem is truly with killing folks remotely. With no more thought or remorse than laying waste to a competitor in a video game, lives are erased without getting yuor hands dirty.

    In the past, force multipliers like rifles, grenades, and rockets were used to up the death toll while keeping the participants hands from being as bloodied, and it is unclear this has been for the better.

    A rational young man forced to war by draft or patriotism is much, much more likely to quickly have his fill of it standing close to the death and horror.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      Why do you assume that drone pilots are any more or less remorseful for the killing they do, than any other pilot tasked with killing people?

    • On the surface your statement sounds really good, I certainly believe that I would get sick of violence very quickly after seeing it first hand. However, why is it that war has continued for so long, and in fact I would say that the world is more anti-war than at any time in the past, even though are weapons are now much more effective at removing us from the scene? Maybe being present at particularly heinous acts actually numbs us to the reality of the event, and it is only when we can witness the killin
      • On the surface your statement sounds really good, I certainly believe that I would get sick of violence very quickly after seeing it first hand.

        On the first Christmas of WW1, troops came out of the trenches en masse on both sides and shared an observance. The following Christmases, most of them just kept on shooting.

        Some people are sickened; some are hardened.

        • We're animals with extensive symbolic reasoning systems bolted on at the last minute. Our basic natures are brutish and short-sighted as any other animal.

          But. We have the something in us that gets us out there the 1st year, and no haplorhini (nor other mammal) exhibits a similar tendency.

        • by chthon ( 580889 )

          Yeah, but they kept shooting because none of the belligerent parties leaders wanted such observances to be the case in the following years, so they made sure that it was not to be repeated.

        • On the first Christmas of WW1, troops came out of the trenches en masse on both sides and shared an observance. The following Christmases, most of them just kept on shooting.

          Some people are sickened; some are hardened.

          And in this case, all were generals that gave specific orders that banned the practice. In their nice, warm chateaus, miles from the front.

      • "On the surface your statement sounds really good, I certainly believe that I would get sick of violence very quickly after seeing it first hand. However, why is it that war has continued for so long?"

        Because the youngsters that go to war, generation after generation, is the first time that are youngsters.

    • We've been killing people remotely for almost 100 years. I don't see a fundamental difference between a B-29 and a Reaper drone.

      • We've been killing people remotely for almost 100 years. I don't see a fundamental difference between a B-29 and a Reaper drone.

        One difference I perceive is that you run no personal risk of being shot down from the Controls of the Reaper.

        And look long and hard into the act of flying your B-29 in over cities, much like the one you live in yourself, before releasing the bombs in your wake... even from there, you're more connected to the idea of war being the destruction of another's humanity.

        • And look long and hard into the act of flying your B-29 in over cities, much like the one you live in yourself, before releasing the bombs in your wake

          That explains why those bomber crews refused to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No...wait...they actually killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

    • But the people who make the decisions about who is going to be killed already may never set foot on the battlefield. And veterans aren't to my knowledge the major component of war protesters.

      On the other hand remote combat (theoretically) removes much of the incentive for killing. If you are out on the battlefield, killing is how you guarantee your personal survival. Armies have historically dealt with non-violent acts such as desertion with on-site execution of their own men because of their own personal

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        To kill people before drones you had to send people to do it in person. That was risky, they could be killed or captured. It created political problems with sending personnel into other countries, or having bases in helicopter range, or travelling long distances on the ground in hostile territory.

        Drone strikes are relatively risk free for commanders to order. The worst that is likely to happen is you kill a bunch of innocent civilians, who you then classify as a mixture of enemy combatants, supporters of te

    • Re:Jah booty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @11:49PM (#51327011)
      Actually, recent [salon.com] studies show that the remote pilots do have PTSD issues....they don't just fly a drone in, launch a missile from 20 miles, and leave. The pilots often work 10-12 hour shifts 6 days a week, and they often follow their targets for weeks if not months before any attacks. After the attack, the drone has to hang out and continue watching, doing an assessment of the damage; ie a body count. The drone team (usually three people) has to count and catalog each dead body. It's highly stressful; these soldiers know damn well it's NOT a video game, they know they are actually killing people. And when they do go home from the office, they can't talk to anyone about the burning bodies of the children they had to tally up that day.

      Here's [thenewamerican.com] more [telegraph.co.uk] articles [stripes.com] on this, if you don't believe me.
    • You should probably read the numerous articles about UAV pilots who have the added stress of compartmentalizing their work. When we're overseas, we get into a "deployment bubble" where, sure, we email and skype back home, but we're largely focused on the job. These guys don't have that and it's pretty rough to fly a mission and then pick up milk on the way home. Also, as I asked another poster, how would this be different if a manned aircraft were used? Or do you not like air power at all?
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:36PM (#51326179)

    It seems like whatever moral victory was obtained in the decolonization process in the 50s and 60s was lost (and then some) in the chaos and kleptocracy that followed.

    Were the British colonies horrible, apartheid-style military dictatorships or were they something perhaps paternalistic but not repressive? Were many of them evolving in terms of local autonomy or civil rights, or just staying repressive?

    I guess I'm trying not to assume their past was rosy, but I wonder how many adults who remember 1950s Rhodesia look back from Mugabe's Zimbabwe and think maybe being Rhodesian wasn't so bad.

    I'd have to guess that access to the UK economy would have been beneficial and that the colonial officials would have made sure the roads and electricity worked.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The idea was that internal secret police had to be used to keep independence movements contained. The US did not want to be seen in public supporting such a role in post ww2 Africa. The US liked the idea of supporting new nations that would then be totally dependant on the US and its brands, services with no political issues.
      The UK and some other EU powers tried to stay on for as long as they could under their own local leaders or more direct rule.
      The West was even ready to swap to military dictatorships
  • The goal is destabilization to scare off competing 'investments' and keep the Russians in a box. Mission accomplished!

    Small, distributed bases make a lot of sense. A lesson I would hope was learned in Pearl Harbor. You know, *eggs in one basket*, etc. And not just for the drones, they blend in a tiny bit better... Could even make them unmanned, with automated fueling spigots and and weapons loading, operating in the dark.

    When does Genesis launch?

    • Really? Not a mistake? What is your evidence? How much has it cost the United States? How much has it cost the countries we invaded? What is the long term cost to our country?
      • Costs for some, profits for others. The people that profit from war do not consider it a 'mistake'. While you chatter on about politics and 'morality', they are conducting business. And right now, war is very good business, for some.

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:55PM (#51326259) Homepage Journal
    has been around for years. The US gets "invited" in by some emerging democracy, leader and builds a small camp with a runway.
    Just like in another few nations in the region.
    Just how very "very slick" and "efficient" can be found in the Drone Papers https://theintercept.com/drone... [theintercept.com]
    The Pentagon's New Generation of Secret Military Bases (Jul. 16, 2012)
    How the Pentagon is quietly transforming its overseas base empire and creating a dangerous new way of war.
    http://www.motherjones.com/pol... [motherjones.com]
    As for the US 'French" connection? Clinton Email Shows that Oil and Gold Were Behind Regime Change In Libya (01/09/2016)
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/... [zerohedge.com]

    Will the US vision of a remote war work? For that the US needs constant signals intelligence ie people have to walk around with electronics that is "on" and been in use. Shared electronics or electronics thats just been driven around randomly could be another part of the puzzle.
    Another method was to hand out tagging and tracking systems to local "freedom fighters" or US trained "moderates" to then place near people of interest. Such efforts can get used to quickly settle local issues rather than the US expected role for easy leadership decapitation.
    The US is still trying to reduce flight time and get more loitering time.
    Great news for the contractors and mercenaries working hours. Just like the Vietnam war base funding, pacification ideas and search and destroy zones but no complex draft politics back home.
    • Will the US vision of a remote war work?

      It had better, since the Chinese are already well under way doing the same thing.

  • Not a fan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @09:01PM (#51326299)
    I don't like this kind of stuff very much. It seems like this administration is willing to get us involved in every conflict on the globe... but not very much involved. Enough to piss all the locals off, but not enough to affect the outcome of whatever is going on. I'd rather see the US adhere to the so-called "Powell Doctrine" (much older than Powell) - stay out of other peoples' business until significant national interests are really at stake. And if you have to go to war you don't do it half-assed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except it is now a much more entrenched "national interest" to keep arms manufacturers fed massive contracts. Can't do that if you aren't using up your fancy new consumables.

    • Unfortunately, it's as politically expedient as it is dubiously effective. Who wants to be weak on defense? Nobody. Who wants to be responsible for dragging us into a quagmire and lots of flag draped coffins? Nobody. It isn't actually clear that you can win much of a war from the air, even when you are willing to use WWII-scale bomber groups and tolerance for massive civilian casualties, much less with a handful of spooks and some model aircraft; but it is a great way of telling voters that you are Really S
      • by Mr.CRC ( 2330444 )

        In order to be "weak on defense," there must first be an offense. There isn't one. There hasn't been any "threat" to the US that couldn't be prevented by simply not letting certain people into the country, since the WWII era.

        • Oh, I'd be inclined to agree; but as long as you can get north of 50% support for bombing fictional countries when polling, it's a bit of an uphill sell.

          Isn't it cheery how much more time we spend blowing things up abroad now that we have a Department of Defense, unlike our old barbaric ways when we had a Department of War?
    • I don't like this kind of stuff very much. It seems like this administration is willing to get us involved in every conflict on the globe... but not very much involved.

      That is the result of the nature of the ongoing conflicts. They aren't big tank battles between the armies of two countries, they are gorilla warfare and terrorism. The Powell Doctrine isn't really applicable.

      In some places all that is needed is intelligence assistance to the locals, an occasional drone strike or special forces raid. Tank brigades aren't helpful for that.

      Either tamp down the problem before it takes root when Jihadis start infiltrating, or the problem may become much larger and require sub

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )
        What are we doing in Africa? Is there some big armada launching from Mauritania to invade Florida? Is there really some big threat there the Africans couldn't handle?
        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          One obvious factor is that Africa will eventually be the sole source of population growth in the world (after around 2060 or so). The more stable it is, the lower the eventual population will be (assuming die-offs don't happen).
    • That only works when the enemy is a country with a standing army. When it becomes a rag tag bunch of civilians that it is now, the solution is not so simple.
      • by tsotha ( 720379 )
        Isn't it? Why can't we just leave them alone and not allow them inside our borders?
        • Isn't it? Why can't we just leave them alone and not allow them inside our borders?

          Who is "them"? The most recent terrorist events (San Bernadino & Paris) were done by local citizens.

          • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

            Since when were Colorado Springs and the Malheur reserve not terrorist events?

            • Sorry I don't know what these are. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of gun violence in the US, most of it fails to make the International news.
              The point still stands though, how would banning all international travel have helped in the cases of San Bernadino and Paris?
          • by tsotha ( 720379 )

            San Bernadino would have been a one-man job if we had a sane immigration policy. No way the wife should have been allowed in the country. Not only did she broadcast her intentions on social media, she didn't even put a real address on her paperwork. Anyway, it's clear our strategy of bombing mud huts in Africa isn't actually working, wouldn't you say?

            The French are screwed. But that's not something we need to consider in US foreign policy.

            • Anyway, it's clear our strategy of bombing mud huts in Africa isn't actually working, wouldn't you say?

              Impossible to say. Since most of our information comes from the news, which is proven to be unreliable, there are simply not enough facts to make that call.
              However one thing I'm sure of, the idea of banning all international travel is a pretty dumb one. It would kill the economy overnight, and people would be starving in the streets before the month is out.

          • Give it a rest. Local citizens who where new or first generation immigrants from the Middle East.
            • Give it a rest.

              Er, that's not how discussions work sorry...

              Local citizens who where new or first generation immigrants from the Middle East.

              Oh so you want to retro-actively apply it? How far back do you go? The Native Americans will be pleased, you should sign up for one of their support groups.

    • I don't like this kind of stuff very much. It seems like this administration is willing to get us involved in every conflict on the globe... but not very much involved. Enough to piss all the locals off, but not enough to affect the outcome of whatever is going on. I'd rather see the US adhere to the so-called "Powell Doctrine" (much older than Powell) - stay out of other peoples' business until significant national interests are really at stake. And if you have to go to war you don't do it half-assed.

      The target countries specified are part of the larger war being fought against Al-Qaeda and Daesh (IS) :

      Somalia
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... [telegraph.co.uk]

      Yemen
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      http://www.businessinsider.com... [businessinsider.com]

    • but not enough to affect the outcome of whatever is going on.

      Rest assured it only seems that way because we don't know what their actual long-term objective is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @09:08PM (#51326331)

    It's not much of a "war" if your opponent has no way to defend themselves much less retaliate against your attacks.

    Considering we also have a problem with cruelty [theguardian.com], being able to determine when we are bombing a hospital and stopping the act [wikipedia.org], and making little kids fear the sky [thewire.com], I don't think assassination goes quite far enough to describe the US governments use of drones in combat. It's pure murder, caused by people who have gone insane with power, accountable to no one. Who will complain? The dead victims families? Who never saw the attacks coming? Who would take responsibility? A government that places no value on the lives of others during war, and places so much money into their war machine that attempting to get them to back down would require support from the entire world? No one should be able to kill like that. Not an individual, not a government, no one. The US government should be condemned and punished for their actions and the use of these things. I say that as a US Citizen, albeit as an AC, as even I would fear those drones being used on us.

    • Killing the enemy is killing, not murder. They decided they wanted to make war on the US and it allies and now they are paying the price.

      Your lines about "people who have gone insane with power" and "accountable to no one" are bullshit.

      You don't like it? Vote for someone else. I'll let you in on a secret - pretty much anyone likely to win will do the same thing. The US isn't going to let them kill American citizens and allies without paying a price.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Note same AC.

        Killing the enemy is killing, not murder.

        The above quote means you are justifying their deaths in someway. If you actually read my comment, you'd see I was referring to innocent bystanders and unintentional civilian targets. People who did NOT decide to make war on the US and it's allies, not "the enemy".

        Given that, I'd like to know how you are justifying the deaths of those innocent civilians.

        Your lines about "people who have gone insane with power" and "accountable to no one" are bullshit.

        OK,

      • Killing the enemy is killing, not murder. They decided they wanted to make war on the US and it allies and now they are paying the price.

        Your lines about "people who have gone insane with power" and "accountable to no one" are bullshit.

        You don't like it? Vote for someone else. I'll let you in on a secret - pretty much anyone likely to win will do the same thing. The US isn't going to let them kill American citizens and allies without paying a price.

        Yes and no. Killing an enemy in a time of war is by definition not murder, but is killing with legal justification. (I.e. a designated enemy in a time of war, plus usually in self-defense or defense of others if the war is legal, since almost every legal war today is couched in self-defense).

        That does not necessarily mean "They decided they wanted to make war on the US and it allies and now they are paying the price." Because (1) the guy you're killing is almost never the one who made that decision, and

  • President Obama pointed out that our military spending is extensive and our enemies can't escape us. Glad our pilots can keep out of return fire.
  • It's a very slick, efficient way to conduct the war, without having to have the massive ground invasion mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Have we gone completely schizo now. I thought the narrative was it was the surge and boots on the ground that finally brought some order to those places, or are we only talking about the narrow context of defeating the traditional military forces there?

    Given the great success that Libya, Yemen, Syria, and to a lessor extent Iraq and Afghanistan I am not see much in the form of experiences we want to repeat. This whole air-power only strategy does not seem to be securing the outcomes we want. I think we c

  • you will know full well that this war machine is coming and you may contribute by providing negative test cases.
    get to work! we expect many bug reports.

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