Saturday, October 27, 2012

Africom's remote control war

Deadly US drone attacks in the Middle East and Northern Africa have greatly escalated in the past few years, thanks largely in part to a quickly expanding, yet remote, US base in the Horn of Africa.

Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has operated as a central command for US attacks in the region for ten years, but in the past two years it has become the center of drone operations in the region. It is the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone.

Camp Lemonnier, is home to over 1,666 drone and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet flights per month, double that of two years ago. 16 drones and four fighter jets take off or land at the Djibouti airfield each day on average. Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen where they are being used in that increasingly deadly war.

Such flights are expected to increase. For the past decade, the Pentagon has labeled Lemonnier an “expeditionary,” or temporary, camp. But it is now hardening into the U.S. military’s first permanent drone war base. $1.4 billion in construction projects are now planned, including a massive housing compound holding up to 1,100 Special Operations forces. Last month, for example, the Defense Department awarded a $62 million contract to build an airport taxiway extension to handle increased drone traffic at Lemonnier, an ammunition storage site and a combat-loading area for bombs and missiles. It also awarded a contract to install portable lighting at the  backup site: a tiny, makeshift airstrip in the Djiboutian desert, several miles from Lemonnier. It represent the clear example of how the United States via AFRICOM is laying the groundwork to carry out these operations overseas for years to come. The U.S. military also flies drones from small civilian airports in Ethiopia and the Seychelles, but those operations pale in comparison to what is unfolding in Djibouti. The U.S. military pays $38 million a year to lease Camp Lemonnier from the Djiboutian government

 The UN's special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights announced that the Human Rights Council at the UN will likely initiate an investigation into civilian deaths caused by the CIA and US military's use of drones and other targeted killing programs, and said that if certain allegations against the US prove true, he considers them serious enough to call "war crimes". Since Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.

Details from here

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