Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

Montgomery McFate - lead scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System
Montgomery McFate – lead social scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain system is supposed to provide information to the military on local people and local culture. I have written about it in relation to AFRICOM previously here: Human Terrain mired in a swamp.

HTS seems to be mired deeper than ever.

John Stanton describes:

Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater, destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.

… Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described by HTS personnel as “a poisonous individual,” “the crazy aunt in the room”, and a “hustler”. One said “you’ve got to watch your six with her.”

Here are some quotes from people involved in the Human Terrain project:

“The HTS program is a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, and in the midst of a recession. Millions have been wasted. And the moronic management of the HTS program seems to have absolutely no problem placing poorly trained individuals in harm’s way, going so far as to falsifying training documents.”

“The amount of cash flying around the HTS program with very little oversight or accountability is disgusting. I continue to work for the HTS program out of obligation because I finish what I start, but trust me, I am counting down the days.”

“I feel for the people whose careers are being ground up in this HTS program mess.”

“It never ceases to amaze me how many egotistical individuals are involved with this HTS program.”

The article points out:

It isn’t really necessary to bring in academics to try to understand psychology, except perhaps for rare pathologies that are not likely to be encountered in everyday life [evolutionary psychology can speak to that]. Where HTS could have helped a lot is in understanding cultural norms and they did try to do that. But it seems to me that HTS over-promised when they claimed that they could help front-line tactical troops with specific situational awareness problems. The key thing to remember is that the differences between any two humans’ behaviors will be greater than the differences in behaviors between cultures.”

As someone who has moved between cultures a certain amount, I heartily endorse this last sentence.

Montgomery McFate, pictured above, is a major player in the fraud and failure. There is a great version of the picture of her here. And more about her domestic spying at Mother Jones.

More from journalist John Stanton on HTS:

Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends.

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”

Interesting about AFRICOM HQ being located in Botswana. I have wondered about this. I have read other speculation on Botswana as the location. The current President of Botswana seems amiably disposed towards western militarism. So far I have seen nothing official.

Maparangwane BDF (Air Wing) Base (from Google Earth Community)
circled above in yellow, closer up below, from Google Maps
Botswana Defence Force Base, approximately 75km from the capital Gaborone. The main runway is astonishingly long for its intended use at 3360 metres. This has led to speculation over it’s true role. Some people say it may serve as a landing and refuelling post for US spyplanes or as an alterante landing location for the space shuttle in the southern hemisphere given it’s relatively close distance to the equator.

BAUMHOLDER, Germany – Jeffrey Morrison, the U.S. Army’s 21st Theater Sustainment Command director of logistics (right), explains the process of loading vehicles onto rail cars to Botswanan officers (left to right) Captain Kabo Moswenyane, Lieutenant Gaopale Swereki and Major Ompatile Modisenyane, in Baumholder, Germany, on March 5, 2008. The purpose of the visit was to help the Botswanan officers learn about rail operations and bolster relations with the U.S. military. The Botswanan officers also received briefings on the military police, the Distribution Management Center and the use of American military jargon. They also traveled to other Army and Air Force installations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Phillip Valentine)

It is obvious from the photo and caption above, taken from, that Botswana enjoys a close working relationship with the US military.

Botswana’s one party democracy has long been a friend of the United States. Although Botswana has publicly questioned the creation of AFRICOM there have been ongoing rumors of agreements between the US and Botswana to host an AFRICOM base. That base may already be in place in the form of the Thebephatshwa Airport/Maparangwane BDF (Air Wing) Base. It is located about halfway between Molepolole and Letlhakeng, north and east of Gaborone. It is also referred to as Molepolole.

You can see it in this photo titled: A large US military base in the middle of Botswana. Taken enroute to WDH at FL350. Photo taken in 2003 by Julian Whitelaw. Click the link above to see the photo.

And Wikipedia has an interactive map of the base, info courtesy of b real, who adds:

where i found out about it was on an AFRICOM thread at the usmc’s small wars council forum & military guys there say it was indeed built by the u.s. before apartheid ended in south africa.

From discussion at Google Earth Community,

The base is called Maparangwane (that might be hard for you to get your tounge around). I have been there numerous times. It was probably (these things are usually kept secret) developed with the technical support of the USAF, but in all probability was funded entirely by Botswana’s Government. We aren’t exactly a poor country. If you use the ruler and go 71.37 Kilometres West south west (thats in between west and southwest) fom this airbase you will see the country’s largest diamond mine at Jwaneng (marked by bright blue pools of some sort) – we have three. We are the 2nd largest producer of gem quality stones after Russia.

Anyways I sa with some probablity because it is possible that the ISAF have a sharing agreement with the government and might have footed some of the bill, but the country could easily afford to design and build such a thing.

. . .
The Eagle project. French influence, not US. Fighter, transport and chopper squadrons on base as well as a training squadron with PC-7 aircraft. The fighters are former canadian CF-5 A and B Freedom Fighters, which were sold to the BDF Air Arm after having been refurbished for the original 419 Squadron of the Canadian Armed Forces at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta Canada. After 419 was shut down in the mid 90s, they were sold and delivered via AN-124 air transport to the base were they were formed into 28 Squadron BDF AA. Transports are former USAF C-130 B versions, also refurbished. Choppers are 412s. Occasionally you might see a Global Express on the field. Botswana has spend considerable funds in the last 10 years on hardware from the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, UK, USA and Canada as well as from SA. Chinese technology and Indian expertise is present throughout the country. For such a small country they have accumulated an impressive arsenal. Although Thebe Phatswa (which is the actual base name) is the main air force base, the HQ is actually located just outside Gaborone and mostly Army. FOLs include Francistown and Maun. The foreign military in Botswana include mostly spec ops training elements from the UK US and a variety of african nations, not always with the knowledge of the BDF. Expats still run a large portion of tech intensive hardware and conduct training on various bases and in the field.
. . .

AFB Molepolole (USAF and BDF) 04/26/06 11:54 AM (google earth community)
The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing is the air force of Botswana.The Air Wing was formed in 1977 and is organisationally part of the Botswana Defence Force.All squadrons are designated with a Z, which has no meaning but is used as a designation for ‘squadron’. The main base is Molepolole and was built mostly by foreign contractors from 1992 being finished around 1996.
this is the main Air base for Botswana’a Air Force. well actually that’s pretentious. The Botswana Defence Force (the Army) has an Air wing, similar to what the UK had before wwII – as there isn’t much need for a peaceful country to have a full air force.

From General Mompati S. Merafhe, the Botswana minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, in October 2003, General Merafhe vigorously denies that it is an American airbase:

Regarding the alleged American airbase, let me state for the record that the United States does not own any military base in Botswana. The airbase that is being referred to is the Thebephatshwa Airbase that is wholly owned by the government of Botswana.

The airbase was constructed during my term as commander of the Botswana Defence Force with our own resources and without any assistance from the United States or any other country for that matter.

In fact, during construction, the Americans publicly accused Botswana of excessive military spending and threatened to cut economic aid to Botswana. So, if the Americans built the airbase, how could they then accuse us of excessive military spending on the airbase?

We have done our best to demonstrate that these allegations are false. Among other things, we have used every opportunity to conduct tours of the airbase for military dignitaries visiting Botswana, including military chiefs from the region. The purpose is to demonstrate to the region and indeed the international community that there is nothing sinister or clandestine about the airbase?

I have decided to raise this matter here because my government is seriously concerned about the damage this campaign of disinformation is doing to the image of Botswana in the region and internationally. Fortunately, we take solace in the fact that mud never sticks on a clean surface, it cakes and falls away.

From Scramble in the Netherlands comes this information about the Air Wing of the Botswana Defense Force.

The Botswana Defence Force Air Wing was formed in 1977 as a result of rising tension in the area. All squadrons are designated with a .Z., which has no meaning but is just used as a designation for .squadron.. Main base is Molepolole which was built mostly by foreign contractors from 1992 and was finished round 1996. Other bases used are the International Airport at Gaborone and Francistown.

The backbone of the Air Wing is formed by ex Canadian CF-116s which are locally designated as CF-5. Thirteen ex-Canadian CF-116s (ten single-seaters and three trainers) were ordered in 1996 to replace the Strikemasters, with another three single-seaters and two double-seaters delivered in 2000. For transport the Air Wing uses BN-2A/B, C212, CN235 and C-130Bs. Latest addition to the transport-fleet was an ex-AMARC C-130B to complement the two existing aircraft.

In 2000, three additional AS350BA helicopters were bought for Z21, bringing the total to eight.. The single Italian built AB412 has been replaced by an Bell 412EP in VIP-configuration. Z21 has a total of six Bell 412s of which the Bell412EP is being used by the VIP-Flight. Flying training is done on seven PC-7s. The VIP flight uses besides the Bell412 a Gulfstream and a Be200. In 1993 nine ex US Army/AMARC O-2As were delivered for use in the battle against poaching.

So what is actually going on between the US and Botwana. Your guess is as good as mine. But keep in mind these words from General Ward’s Q&A for his confirmation hearing, PDF: U.S. Africa Command Will Enhance Local Skills, Problem Solving, again, courtesy of b real:

on basing criteria
– – –
Some of the criteria includes: political stability; security factors; access to regional and intercontinental transportation; availability of acceptable infrastructure; quality of life; proximity to the African Union and regional organizations; proximity to USG hubs; adequate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The transition team has used these criteria to narrow down potential sites. Those potential sites have been briefed to the Dept of State informally and we have begun dialogue on the advantages and disadvantages of those sites.

Botswana meets these criteria. There was also a recent article in Air Force Times about two Air Force generals named to top spots in AFRICOM, which would fit in with air bases.

Brought up from the comments, courtesy of b real, and added April 9:

THE BOTSWANA DEFENCE FORCE: Evolution of a professional African military

. . . No discussion of politics or military affairs in Botswana can avoid a discussion of Seretse Khama Ian Khama. He is the most eminent member of what might be called the ‘first family’ of Botswana. His father, Sir Seretse Khama, was a national hero, prominent in the struggle for full national independence, and founder of the party that has governed the country since independence, serving as the country’s president from its founding in 1966 until his death in office in 1980. When the Defence Force was created in 1977, Ian Khama was appointed its deputy commander with the rank of brigadier. Twelve years later, in 1989, he acceded to the command of the BDF with the rank of lieutenant general, a post he subsequently held for nine years. Khama’s service spanned the formative period of the Defence Force’s evolution, and despite his retirement in 1998 to enter politics, he continues to have a close connection with Botswana’s military. Khama’s current positions of vice-president and party chair of the ruling party are widely believed in Botswana to guarantee his accession to the presidency when the incumbent, Festus Mogae, steps down. However, Khama’s activities over the course of his military and political career have provoked controversy and he is accused of having very authoritarian tendencies. Many among Botswana’s educated elite view a future Khama presidency with some trepidation. . . .

From the US Dept. of State:

The United States has been the largest single contributor to the development of the BDF, and a large segment of its officer corps has received U.S. training.

. . . The United States considers Botswana an advocate of and a model for stability in Africa and has been a major partner in Botswana’s development since its independence.

Botswana, military ties the main issue, not tribe includes the mention that “One knowledgeable [military] source estimated in 2004 that 75 per cent of BDF officers above the rank of major are graduates of US military schools.”

the wikipedia entry on BDF says that “by 1999 approximately 85% of the BDF officers are said to have been trained under this system [IMET].”

It sounds very much as though Botswana is evolving away from democracy, and into a military government. And I am sure the US Department of Defense and AFRICOM are most happy and comfortable with Botswana’s movement into militarism. This provides the US with a happy and willing “partner”, well placed to act as a US surrogate on the African continent. And it puts the US Department of Defense and the Botswana government in the same business, speaking the same language. The less democracy, the more it becomes a military government, the more a few “boys in the back room” can make decisions without any pesky interference from legislatures, or the public at large. This further weakens what democracy is left. So the US can help “partner” away democratic institutions in Botswana.

This is a perfect illustration of why a military command cannot help foster democratic institutions, and economic development. The structure of a military command is a strict heirarchy organized to achieve military ends that require heirarchy and line of authority. In order to have political and economic development, a country must draw from a far wider pool for input, ideas, and investment, and defer to voices across a range of roles and ranks. It would certainly be nice if the US was investing as much money training people for other forms of public service, for all the skills that go into governing and delivering public services, water, sewars, electicity, roads, schools, clinics, hospitals, from local towns and municipalities to national governments, rather than building “defense” forces. The photo op “humanitarian” projects help, but they are no substitute for serious investment in developing civilian governing skills and institutions. Unfortunately, the current US governement does not believe in investing in these at home, and does not appear to believe in the actual practice of democracy.

What will happen if and when the citizens of Botswana become unhappy with losing their democracy to a military government? What role will the US play in that case?