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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Thursday, 8 July 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Places I've always wanted to visit... sort of...

And that would be the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas that became Djibouti in 1977 as I see.

My Paris-born French friend out here, Liane, once told me she had a relative - her sister's husband I think, or a nephew - stationed there for some governmental task or another having to do with the numbers folks at the Bercy ministry. But I had to look it up. Djibouti. Great name.

Now it's all ours, according to this -
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is "a unit based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti - a sweltering 88-acre outpost by the Gulf of Aden once inhabited by the French Foreign Legion. Sitting at the end of a garbage-strewn dirt road leading out of the capital, the camp is where 1,800 U.S. troops, including hundreds of special operations forces, have since May [2003] based their missions covering seven countries in Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. And according to the plans being drawn up in unadorned cubicles back at the Pentagon, it is the U.S. military mission in the Horn of Africa - even more than the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq - that is a window into the next decade in the war on terrorism."

"In the Horn of Africa, much of the task force's focus is on humanitarian projects like building schools, wells, and roads. It is not done out of altruism: The aim is to project a better image of the United States and make the ground less fertile for the seeds of Islamic radicalism. During another era, it was known as 'winning hearts and minds.' In April, when their Marine brethren were dropping bombs on Iraqis, marines in the Horn of Africa delivered 15,000 pairs of shoes to children in Djibouti city.

"There are, of course, plenty of bullets to complement the bread. Hundreds of special operations forces and CIA operatives based at Camp Lemonier have the mission of capturing or killing the biggest stars in al Qaeda's constellation and have the authority to launch covert missions throughout much of the Horn of Africa. Last November, a missile fired from a CIA-operated Predator drone killed an al Qaeda operative on a desert highway in Yemen, and intelligence officials are monitoring African airspace and dhow traffic in coastal waters to set the stage for future operations."

"... Yet much of the work is already underway and has a momentum all its own. At dusty Camp Lemonier, Djiboutian contractors are constructing a new gymnasium for the U.S. troops; and soldiers and marines can escape the heat by ducking into a new air-conditioned dining facility, recently christened the Bob Hope Chow Hall. Standing inside the Joint Operations Center, a stark warehouse where Task Force Horn of Africa plans and executes its counterterrorism missions, Master Gunnery Sgt. Barry Walker looks around and sees the future. 'It's bare bones, but it's going to be what we need,' he says. 'The days of small-city U.S.A. are gone.'

"Which means troops based in Djibouti need to seek their entertainment off base. Some spend their free evenings wandering the markets of Djibouti city; others gamble at a local hotel. Some even break the monotony of base life by participating in joint training exercises on the Gulf of Aden with the French (yes, the French) military. In the end, most can recite the exact day and hour that their tour in the Horn of Africa ends, and one Marine officer is even writing a book about the experience of being deployed in Djibouti. The book's title: The Year of the Short Straw."

Source: US News & World Report (September 28, 2003).
Ah, so we're all looking at Baghdad and Basra, and the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and thinking CENTCOM near Tampa and in Yemen or Bahrain is where things are really happening.

Nope. It's in Djibouti. Isn't it always?

And now all over the wires is the New Republic (TRN) item from John Judis, Spencer Ackerman and Massoud Ansari - about the upcoming July Surprise. It seems that they've been chatting with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) folks -
A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TRN that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [i.e., high-value al Qaida targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
No, no, no! Way too obvious!

Judis and Ackerman may claim to have multiple Pakistani intelligence sources confirming key details, but this doesn't smell right.

But who knows, with a little help from our guys in Djibouti....

It seems Pakistan has been wanting a good number of our F-16 fighters to even things up with their neighbors in India flying the last of the fancy MIG fighters. And the F-16 is manufactured in Dallas - Forth Worth. Jobs. American manufacturing jobs - and high-paying ones at that. Something could be worked out.

So no doubt there will be (or already is) some intense communications traffic between Islamabad in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and our folks in Djibouti.

This could work.

Djibouti. Dinner at the Bob Hope Chow Hall. Military exercises with our French friends. Sun and sand. Sounds intriguing.

Posted by Alan at 14:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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