March 12, 2003
Way to go, CJTF-HOA!!! The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in Djibouti ended their 12-day long air-land-sea inter-service exercises in detecting, identifying and disrupting terrorists with a live mission that resulted in the capture of several terrorist operatives, as well as sensitive information and material that could be used to further pressure terrorist organizations operating in the region.
The Horn of Africa command led by Major General Sattler covers the land, air and maritime zones of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Yemen. The maneuvers were coordinated from the coalition's command ship USS Mount Whitney based in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The Italian Navy's guided missile destroyer Mimbelli, which recently joined Combined Task Force-150, played a key role in the joint operations. The Marines of the CJTF-HOA Small Craft Detachment also taught Djiboutian naval forces troops about small boat handling, maintenance and combat formations.
A USMC explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) planner also acted as a liaison with the Djiboutian Army Engineers, the Djiboutian Mine Action Center and RONCO (a U.S. based de-mining firm that has developed an integrated humanitarian de-mining system and is funded by the U.S. State Department). The Marine was assessing RONCO's de-mining procedures, capabilities and operational areas. Minefields are still a hazard to civilians and livestock in the area, blocking access to local resevoirs and roads. Attempts were made by the French in 1995, 1996 and 1998 to clear the field, but the mines are still visible.
The successful exercise may explain why a local newspaper also reported that Ethiopian and US forces were using helicopters to patrol along the Somali border, the surveillance meant to control the suspected movement of contraband goods and terrorists in the lawless area. The sources also claimed that the military units were monitoring a terrorists' camp suspected to exist along the Somali border, in anticipation of a joint Ethiopian-US attack. No official comments have been made by the two governments about the joint military surveillance.
In early March, there were numerous reports of Ethiopian troops massing along the border and even operating inside of Somalia, although their objective could not be established. While some reports noted the possibility of antiterrorist patrols, the local cynics claim that the Ethiopians were there to help General Morgan invade southern Somalia's Jubba regions and even support Colonel Shatigadud in recapturing south-central Somalia's Bay and Bakool regions.
The Ethiopians have categorically denied the Somali Transitional National Government (TNG) claims and stated that there are no Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia. They claim that the TNG is unhappy with the outcome of the peace process taking place in Kenya and is looking for any excuse to scuttle the process, to include blaming the 'usual suspect' Ethiopia. - Adam Geibel
Photos and additional details on the CJTF-HOA exercise can be found online at: