Conventional reporting on the United States military’s presence in Africa has suggested a potential troop drawdown, an option that has been floated for months now by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. But internal documents of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) obtained by the Mail & Guardian indicate planned upgrades to and renovations of American bases in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, all of which are expected to be carried out between 2021 and 2025.
The documents, formally issued in October 2018, discuss twelve construction projects for American bases in Kenya, Niger, and Djibouti. All told, this construction is slated to cost upwards of US$330 million, the majority of which has been set aside for seven projects specifically for Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Formerly a French Foreign Legion outpost, Camp Lemonnier is the headquarters of the United States’ Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa; it is also the central node in AFRICOM’s counterterrorism operations in neighboring Somalia and Yemen, and hosts 4,000 of the 6,000 American troops stationed in Africa.
The uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic could change how future operations are handled.
At the very least, it appears that US troop presence in Africa will remain for the foreseeable future, though the uncertainty posed by the COVID-19 pandemic could change how future operations are handled. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti recently went into lockdown after two contractors working on-site were diagnosed with COVID-19.