US shifts drone operations out of Djibouti
Is the sky over Djibouti too crowded ? That seems the case according to US Officials as the US are shifting its drone operations from Djibouti to a more remote airfield. This decisions was taken after concerns of collisions with commercial aircrafts. There was a concern over what would happen if a MQ-1 (Predator drone) obstructed a runway, and that it would have a significant impact on commercial air operations. After the attacks of September 11 2001, Camp Lemonnier — located next to the Djibouti international airport — took on crucial strategic importance for Washington as a site for stationing special operations forces and drones for assaults on Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen and Islamist Shabab forces in Somalia. This has resulted in a massive input of drones and aircrafts in the area, raising the risk of collision. After five accidents involving MQ-1 Predators since January 2011, the government of Djibouti demanded the Americans halt the drone flights out of Camp Lemonnier, where about 3,000 US troops are deployed, said the defense official. The decision to shift flights to Chabelley raised questions about Pentagon plans to spend $880 million to improve the infrastructure at Camp Lemonnier. The US government plans to invest $13 million for infrastructure at Chabelley airfield to support the drone flights, according to the document. But lawmakers wrote that they remained concerned about how operations at the new location would be sustained over the long-term and at what cost. So the decision in all cases will not be neutral and chances are the US will be there to stay in the area on the long run.