The Horn of Africa
DATELINE DJIBOUTI U.S. Forces - A Jeep bus driven wildly careens around a corner and the side mirror whacks the head of a local man, he drops, apparently dead. Djiboutians take little notice. Life is cheap is this lawless land.
One Marine from Texas call Djibouti (ja boot tii ) "the kind of place Indiana Jones would go to." This former French colony, contiguous with Ethiopia and Somali is in a tough neighborhood. According to the Marine Corps commanding officer Colonel Bill Callahan, an Irishman from West Hartford Connecticut the primary value is location, location and location.
It is at the crossroads of the Red Sea, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and of course Arabia's rich oil fields. It is slightly smaller than Massachusetts with a population of 600,000 mostly Muslim Africans. Has virtually a zero economy, virtually no potable water the long standing curse of Africa and the life expectancy barely forty years for a Djiboutian born today. No doubt well assisted by the AIDS epidemic originating in Africa and sadly 12 percent of the Djiboutians now have it. One of the Djiboutians few recreations is an opium type drug called "Khat." Each day the Marines at post number three see the cargo plane land from Ethiopia at exactly 1300 with the daily "Khat" sales to be distributed through a legally organized set of vendors. It is a plant and they chew the leaves. It is widely used even at the highest circles of government. Travel here is at your own risk. Livestock may be on the highway. There is no signage at even railway crossings. Vehicles drive out of control and there are no safety measures to be had.
Terrorist will thrive in these lands without governance -- America had to learn this ... the hard "911" way. When we failed to stop Osama in Ethiopia and Afghanistan we now intend to stop al-Queda from establishing a base on or near the horn of Africa. Therefore enter the MarinesS? who now have satellite bases on Kenya coast and in Ethiopia operated from Djibouti .. The Horn of Africa. This is a hard ship post for the Corps and usually only a 6 months deployment is required. This small base reminiscent of the old posts in Latin America where Marines in many cases represented the only semblance of law and order.
Their President Omar Gelleh is a strong ruler who favors their long standing relationship with France. He also favors the economic assets the USA offers his country. This former French colony still has a garrison of the renowned French Foreign Legion. The Germans have some forces in Djibouti too. Perhaps, they too may have been a target in Djibouti land, had their governments not vetoed the U.S. resolutions at United Nations. This the third point in the AOR triangle (area of responsibility) Our Marine general officers Lt. General Chip Gregson and Brig General Jerry McAbee from Oahu have the responsibility for this and the Iraqi and Afghanistan areas
Meanwhile our Marines stand guard at a post which is a critical location in the global war on terrorism. Hopefully, a grateful America appreciates their efforts. Be assured says Colonel Callahan, this will not be a future home for the al-Queda.
Proud Note: This article is a salute to Sergeant major Royce Coffee who is about to retire after 37 years of being an extraordinary Marine -- He is also the Corps sixth degree black belt martial arts expert -- God Bless him and his wife Kathleen.
P. T. Brent is a Hawaii business man and former U.S. Marine infantry veteran. He has been embedded with the Marines in Iraq and other conflict areas for the past 60 days.