U.S. Wary of Its New Neighbor in Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base - ( P 4)
Posted Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Abdirahman M. Ahmed, who runs Green Djibouti International, an environmental social enterprise, said many people viewed foreign militaries as a stabilizing force, given their country’s diminutive size, its lack of resources and the potential threats from neighbors like Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, where expansionist sentiments continue to burble.
“We don’t see any problem having the Chinese here,” he said. “They provide revenue and help play a deterrence to those who would love to annex Djibouti.”
The plethora of foreign troops, some say, also served as a bulwark against the jihadist violence that has destabilized other countries in the region. Djibouti, whose population of 900,000 embraces a moderate form of Sunni Islam, has not been entirely spared: In 2014, a double suicide bombing at a downtown restaurant popular with foreigners killed a Turkish national and wounded 11 people. The Shabab, the Somali-based militant group, later claimed responsibility, saying the attack was motivated by the presence of so many Western troops in Djibouti.
For American military strategists, the security implications of the Chinese base are unclear, though practically speaking, many experts say the military threat is minimal.
“A port like this isn’t very defensible against attack,” said Philip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the National Defense University. “It wouldn’t last very long in a war.”