The United States is looking to further strengthen its ties with the country of Djibouti. At the request of the Djiboutian government, the U.S. is helping the small Horn of Africa nation build an elite Special Forces infantry unit, the Rapid Intervention Battalion (RIB). The unit will be trained and equipped by the U.S. The U.S. also delivered 54 armored HUMVEEs to Djibouti as part of a $31 million aid package to the country. All this is aimed at further strengthening ties between the two countries, while countering Chinese influence. 

Captain Michael Simpson from the U.S. Army is heading the training mission with the RIB. “With the delivery of these vehicles, we will increase the capability of the (Rapid Intervention Battalion) to conduct mounted patrols and respond quickly to any mission,” he said. 

The Rapid Intervention Battalion (RIB) was formed using experienced officers and NCOs from the military. They are trained in light infantry tactics, mission planning, land navigation, communication exercises and “additional advanced instruction,” a statement from AFRICOM read.

“The RIB is the first Djiboutian Special Force that the (U.S.) has agreed to fully support,” Army Lt. Gen. Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim said after a change of command ceremony in Djibouti. “I would like to thank the team of American instructors who spare no effort to transmit their knowledge to the soldiers of the RIB.”

Located next to Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, in Djibouti City, is the U.S. Camp Lemmonier base. Camp Lemmonier is a United States Naval Expeditionary Base from where the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) is based. Currently, it is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa

Originally a base for the French Foreign Legion, Camp Lemonnier was named after the French General Émile-René Lemonnier. After the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the United States leased the former French base which had fallen into significant disrepair. The U.S. expanded the base from 97 acres to over 500. Camp Lemonnier also serves as a base for air operations in the Persian Gulf region. 

The United States has been using the base to support operations around the Horn of Africa as well as in Somalia. The U.S. and Djiboutian governments signed a lease giving the Americans access to the base for another 15 years, until 2034, with another 10-year option.