Accessibility links

Pentagon Considers Expanding Military Presence in Horn of Africa - 2003-07-10

The Pentagon may be considering an expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Horn of Africa, for the first time adding jet fighters to the force already deployed in Djibouti.

A site survey team including pilots and maintenance specialists has arrived in Djibouti to assess the feasibility of deploying advanced U.S. fighter aircraft in the Horn of Africa.

According to a brief statement issued by the special U.S. military anti-terrorism task force based in Djibouti, the jets under consideration for a possible move include the F-15 Strike Eagle, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-A/18 Hornet.

Task force officials were not immediately available to provide additional details.

But a senior Pentagon official tells VOA the Horn of Africa region remains what he calls "an area ripe for terrorists trying to find safe haven."

This official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says U.S. fighters could be of potential use in anti-terrorist operations in the region.

Another military official notes advanced fighters like those under consideration for possible deployment to Djibouti can conduct high speed reconnaissance missions as well as actual strikes.

This official also suggests if a decision is made to base any fighters in Djibouti, it may only be a temporary move. The official says this could be for a short term, operational need.

But he also notes scores of U.S. aircraft are being relocated in the region following the end of major combat operations in Iraq. For example, American aircraft and personnel are being withdrawn entirely from Saudi Arabia.

There are some 1,800 U.S. personnel currently based in Djibouti, many of them Special Operations forces. They are occasionally joined by other U.S. troops who conduct training in the Horn of Africa area.

The task force's main mission is to detect, disrupt and defeat terrorist groups in the Horn, working together closely with security personnel from regional governments.