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U.S. plans major military presence in northern Africa

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, July 24, 2003

The United States plans to establish a major military presence in Djibouti.

U.S. officials said the Defense Department wants to convert a task force presence in the North African state into a major military base that would include fighter-jets and warships. Djibouti is currently the headquarters of the Horn of Africa task force, part of Central Command.

The Pentagon has sent a team to Djibouti to examine the feasibility of deploying F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighter-jets. Officials said many of the aircraft would be relocated from the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.

The task force based in Djibouti's Camp Lemonier issued a statement that said the fighter-jets are being considered for deployment in the North African state. About 1,800 U.S. military personnel most of them Special Operations forces are already in Camp Lemonier, which has been undergoing a major facelift over the last year.

The U.S. military in Djibouti has been rapidly expanding over the last year amid Pentagon efforts to find new military bases outside of the Gulf region. Officials said the Pentagon has explored relocating troops and military assets in such countries as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Officials said Djibouti could serve as a short-term base for U.S. fighter-jets that are being withdrawn from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Air Force will maintain a skeleton presence in Prince Sultan by August.

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