US drone bases in Ethiopia shut down

Wednesday January 6 2016

A US made Reaper drone part of Operation Barkhane's aerial detachment flies over the Nigerian military airport Diori Hamani in Niamey on January 2, 2015. Reports indicate that a US drone base in southern Ethiopia was closed in September last year. PHOTO | AFP

A US made Reaper drone part of Operation Barkhane's aerial detachment flies over the Nigerian military airport Diori Hamani in Niamey on January 2, 2015. Reports indicate that a US drone base in southern Ethiopia was closed in September last year. PHOTO | AFP 

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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NEW YORK

The US has closed its drone base in Ethiopia, scaling down airborne operations against Al-Shabaab militants.

Reports indicate that the base in southern Ethiopia was closed in September last year.

The installation at Arba Minch was used to conduct spy flights over Somalia for four years.

According to a November 30 report by South Africa-based DefenceWeb news site, the US had also stopped flying a set of armed drones from an airfield in Djibouti.

The unmanned aircraft had apparently killed scores of Al-Shabaab militants.

DefenceWeb quoted an Air Force operations analysis officer as saying the squadron of Djibouti-based drones deactivated in October was “responsible for the neutralisation of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals”.

The withdrawal of drones from East Africa reflects Pentagon’s calculations that the unmanned aircraft were more urgently needed against the Islamic State in the Middle East.

The US is also putting more military resources into campaigns against Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon and Islamist militants in Mali and Libya.

Analysts in and outside the US Government say significant progress has been made in militarily stabilising Somalia.

GOOD PROGRESS
While Al-Shabaab continues to carry out attacks in Mogadishu and other parts of the country as well as in Kenya, the group has been pushed from several strongholds and is said to be splintering.

“There’s been a great deal of progress against Al-Shabaab, or at least as much progress as one can get from a drone programme,” MR Peter Pham, head of the Africa programme at the Atlantic Council think tank, told the Washington Post on Monday.

Considerable air power is still available to the US in Eact Africa for operations in Somalia.

Drones and other aircraft continue to fly from Djibouti, where the US has 3,000 troops.

Another US drone facility is reportedly operating in the Seychelles. Air support installations have been built at Manda Bay in Kenya.