A few months ago I signed up for the daily update from every foreign policy organization I could find. One outstanding issue has been the location of a drone base for east Africa. There have been a lot of strikes in Yemen, on the southwest corner of the Saudi Arabian peninsula and stories of drone observation in Somalia. I thought the logical location would have been Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and I once spent an hour examining the location with Google Earth, but I saw no evidence of MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper aircraft.
The Seychelles make sense for both privacy/security and for anti-piracy efforts. The presence of a base is revenue for the locals without the level of access bad actors would have in Djibouti.
I clicked the rest of the markers – there is definitely a drone base at Arba Minch, Ethiopia, which had been suspected, and the article cites six other locations that may support drones.
A quick look at exercises and other activities conducted by U.S. Africa Command this spring alone reveals a U.S. military presence in more than a dozen countries — from Cape Verde in the West to the Seychelles in the East and Morocco in the North. These exercises have shared medical techniques with the Nigerian military, provided intelligence training in Congo, trained special operators in Cameroon, and even included an East African Special Operations Conference in Zanzibar.
This update was found in Mapped: The U.S. Military’s Presence In Africa, from Foreign Policy magazine. The drone base information is overall, to my mind, pretty speculative. Seychelles make sense now that I see this report, we have been hearing about Arba Minch, but these others are little more than OSINT imagery and guesses based on aircraft types and infrastructure observed. I use free satellite imagery at times myself, but for a major article I think I would have made a very clear distinction between the first two and the last six.
The expansion of AFRICOM activities into thirty five locations on the continent was reported earlier this year. Prior to that report U.S. military presence in Africa was on an as-needed basis, while the headquarters was based in Germany.
This has been a developing story the last six months. I have some other stuff that takes precedence, but I really want to dig deeper on this one. Maybe it’s time to take out RecordedFuture and see what can be found.