US military steps up operations in the Horn of Africa (part 2/2)
Posted Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014
Since four gunmen from that group killed more than 60 shoppers in Nairobi's Westgate mall in September, Washington has injected a new urgency into its hunt to track down the leaders before they can plan more attacks.
One controversial tool in JSOC's arsenal is the use of missile strikes by unmanned Reaper drones. Until last September they took off from this base but after a number of crashes and near misses the Djibouti government asked the Americans to move them out to a desert runway.
The drone strikes have continued, sometimes killing civilians and attracting condemnation from human rights groups as "extrajudicial killings".
So I asked Djibouti's Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssuf if this bothered him.
Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf speaks to Frank Gardner
"We feel that really Djibouti is one of the top targets of al-Shabab in the region," he replied, adding that: "These people are very dangerous, the al-Shabab and al-Qaeda elements. So whatever it takes.
"If we can contain them, ok, if we can get rid of them it's better.
"But we don't have to waste time in asking each and every time ourselves if we should use drones or not".
It certainly looks like America is here to stay. Fresh building work is still under way at the camp.
So as long as this remains a troubled region and Djibouti is happy to play host, Washington has a firm foothold on the Horn of Africa.
The drone strikes against militant leaders look set to continue.