March 30, 2004:
One of the forgotten fronts in the War on Terror is being fought by the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Local countries in the region have been credited for detaining suspected terrorists in recent actions, but because of obvious operational security issues, few details of these operations have been reported in the media. The security forces of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti and Yemen arrested dozens of "significant members" of terrorist groups across the Horn of Africa. Early in March, Yemen arrested nine suspects in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and also detained two other militants described as Al-Qaeda members.
Others prefer to act on the side of caution. German President Johannes Rau cancelled a planned visit to Djibouti on March 24, after German security services claimed that there was a plot by an unnamed Islamist group to kill him. Both Djiboutian and American spokesmen were surprised by the German statement. Security had already been tightened, following vague and unconfirmed warnings the Germans received in Tanzania.
The CJTF-HOA musters between 1,300 and 1,600 task force personnel based at the 88-acre Camp Lemonier, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti. The 2nd Marine Regiment's K Company, 3rd Battalion and the Army's 'Old Guard' 3rd Infantry Regiment's B Company (usually performing ceremonial duties in Washington DC) are currently providing force protection at Lemonier.
B Company was recently trained by the Marines in Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) tactics, which prepares the unit's three platoons for fast-paced insertion and exertion of troops to retrieve assets in hostile situations. Lift assets were provided by two CH-53E Super Stallions from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464. In late February, FBI bomb experts taught Djiboutian National Police Force and Marines about Improvised Explosive Devices. The Marines were invited since their force protection role requires searching vehicles passing through the gates of Camp Lemonier.
For the most part, the Horn of Africa is a 'hearts and minds' battle. The Montana Air National Guard's 219th Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron and 65 tons of equipment were recently flown in to help with local engineering projects.
Off the coast, the coalition naval flotilla made up of six to seven French, Spanish, German, British and US warships known as Combined Task Force-150 patrols the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean areas around the Horn of Africa. - Adam Geibel
CTF-150 official website: