This article was written by Eren Ersozoglu and originally published on Grey Dynamics

The purpose of this Grey Dynamics Africa Intelligence Report is to analyze the benefit of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti for America’s strategic and geopolitical purposes. Foreign presence will be assessed, and analysis will provide the implications of competing and supporting strategies on the U.S. presence. The time frame for this report will be between 2020-2030.

Key Judgments

KJ-1. The United States Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) presence in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, provides the U.S. with strategic and geopolitical benefits while offsetting Chinese and Russian spheres of influence in the region.

KJ-2. The U.S. presence presents an opportunity to promote closer cooperation with Djibouti in the form of military training but can also be “packaged” to promote infrastructure development and trade. This is also the case for neighboring East African countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia.

KJ-3. NATO allies are present in the country, boosting AFRICOM capabilities. Japan’s military facility in Djibouti and its cooperation with India is almost certainly a threat to China’s Belt Road Initiative and Indian Ocean Hegemony. Tensions are likely to increase between 2020-2030, with a highly unlikely chance for conflict between 2020-25, rising to likely in the second half 2025-30 if South China Sea tensions rise.

KJ-4. The greatest threat from state competitors to long term U.S. strategy in the region is China. Russia is also a threat to a lesser extent. Additionally, neighboring Saudi and UAE entities will almost certainly seek to increase their influence in Djibouti. There is a chance that under the current status quo, by 2030, China will outcompete the U.S. in the Djibouti sphere of influence.

KJ-5. A reduction of AFRICOM’s presence will most probably provide favorable conditions for China and Russia to gain an advantage in the region. African issues are highly unlikely to be solved by military force. Economic and human development initiatives combined with favorable loan terms and projects will increase the likelihood of success for U.S. goals.

U.S. Army Special Forces operators preparing for a mission.

The Camp Lemonnier base was leased in 2001. The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) moved to Djibouti in 2003. In 2007, its expansion from 97 acres to around 500 acres was announced. In 2014, a 30-year lease with Djibouti was agreed, with $63 million in annual payments and in October 2018, $240 million was allocated to expand facilities. Around two-thirds of AFRICOM’s forces on the continent, around 4,000 troops, are stationed in the base.