US reaches lease deal on sole African base

 

The United States will sign a long-term lease with the government of Djibouti to continue operating from Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion base that has become the centerpiece of American anti-terror efforts in Africa, President Obama said Monday.

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Obama hailed the lone permanent U.S. military base in Africa as "extraordinarily important" and "a critical facility" during a meeting with Djibouti President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh at the White House.

"We could not do it without the president's cooperation. We're grateful for him agreeing for a long-term presence there," Obama said.

The base is home to the U.S. Africa Command and has been central to U.S. military efforts against the militant al-Shabab organization, a Somalian cell of al Qaeda. The Pentagon coordinates drone missions in Yemen and Somalia, both adjacent to Djibouti, from the base.

According to The Washington Post, F-15 fighters also operate from the base, which houses 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors, including 300 special operations personnel. The president did not disclose the length or terms of the lease agreement.

Obama also thanked the Djibouti leader for his assistance on security issues.

"Al-Shabab obviously has carried out operations throughout East Africa, and there is a significant presence of soldiers from Djibouti who are participating in the multinational force that has been able to push back al-Shabab's control over large portions of Somalia," Obama said.

Guelleh thanked Obama for U.S. development assistance and said the base agreement would "reinforce our partnership and our relationship."

"We do that all for peace in the world and, in particular, for peace in Africa," Guelleh said.