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U.S. moves counter-terror HQ to North Africa

Friday, May 9, 2003

The United States has moved the headquarters of its counter-terrorism task force to Djibouti.

The move comes as the Defense Department seeks to expand the U.S. military presence in North Africa.

The U.S. military said the headquarters of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa will be moved from the USS Mount Whitney in the Arabian Sea to a base in Djibouti. The base was identified as Camp Lemonier, a former French Legion facility.

The transfer of the command will be completed by the end of next week, the military said. The move would involve 400 personnel and tons of cargo, which would be transported by helicopter from the ship to the base.

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Once at Camp Lemonier, the command would be expanded to about 1,800 personnel. The military did not say how long the expansion would take.

The task force was established in 2002 to track and capture Al Qaida operatives in the Horn of Africa. The operatives were believed to have fled Afghanistan via the Persian Gulf, through Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Djibouti, a member of the Arab League is located on the African coast across from Yemen and at Bab El Mandeb. The waterway links the Red Sea and the Arabia Sea and is a major shipping route to and from the Gulf.

Officials said the Pentagon is probing Arab and other allies in North Africa for the stationing of permanent military bases. Some of the countries being considered for access by the U.S. military include Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.

The U.S. effort is part of an assessment that North Africa, the southern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa will be major sources of tension in the next decade. The Pentagon has also launched the effort as part of a drive to reduce the U.S. military presence in Western Europe, particularly Germany.

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