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Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA)
Operation Octave Shield

Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA) supports partner nation military operations in Somalia to defeat the Al Qaeda network and associated forces, conducts focused military-to-military engagement to strengthen East African partner nation militaries, and conducts crisis response and personnel recovery in support of US military, diplomatic, and civilian personnel throughout East Africa in order to protect and defend the national security interests of the United States. Though OEF-HOA was the operational name for this overarching campaign against the Al Qaeda network and other terrorist organizations in East Africa, operational activities in support of that campaign plan were conducted under the codename Operation Octave Shield. This relationship was not readily obvious and it had been misreported that OEF-HOA had been renamed OOS.

Since nearly the beginning of coalition operations in the Global War on Terrorism, subsequently referred to as Overseas Contingency Operations, coalition forces have been operating from Djibouti, providing air facilities for patrol aircraft, a port of call for ships, and a location that some ground personnel were stationed at. Various Marine Expeditionary Units that may have been present in the area stopped in Djibouti to provide humanitarian support, namely building structures for local populations and in some areas of Kenya as well.

A small desert country located at the south entrance of the Red Sea on the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is split by a central mountain range that runs between a coastal plain and an inland plateau. Djibouti's climate is hot and arid with negligible rainfall. Djibouti's importance stems from its strategic location at the entrance to the Bab al Mandeb. The country's airfield served as part of a strategic air bridge for operations in Somalia in the 1990s, and the US had an ongoing ship visit program. Djibouti's pro-Western orientation and long-standing French presence afforded the US important access to support facilities for crisis response.

Tribal friction continued between the Afar rebels in the north and the Issas who largely control the government. Although civil war brought increased lawlessness to the country, conditions began returning to normal. In addition to domestic problems, Djibouti (like Ethiopia) served as a safe haven for Somalis fleeing violence and anarchy to the south. The government had continuing requirements for international aid organizations to assist in temporary relief and shelter for these refugees. The historic instability of Djibouti's neighboring countries continues to place an increased burden on its ability to develop economically and politically.

While the Djiboutian military continued its demobilization efforts and the government strives to improve its economic outlook, the US continued to maintain a modest security assistance program aimed at complementing France's leading role. Assistance in the 1990s was limited to spare parts for vehicles, limited engineer equipment, and a modest IMET program. In FY95 the US was to begin a military civic action program designed to "train the trainer" in basic skills.

In the Spring of 2002, US marines and sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) traveled in Djiboutian Army trucks on a dirt road to the village of Hol-Hol, Djibouti, in eastern Africa. Marines and sailors from the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group provided humanitarian assistance to the people there for a week while the remainder of the group supported Operation Enduring Freedom in the North Arabian Sea.

In the Summer of 2002, reports began to surface that US Special Forces were operating from Djibouti as they took part in anti-terror operations in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. These reports indicated that roughly 800 soldiers were operating from Djibouti, though it was not clear which units were involved.

On 29 October 2002, during a Department of Defense Briefing, General Tommy Franks, head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), confirmed that forces were operating out of Djibouti, though he declined to reveal what exactly the soldiers were doing or where they were operating. He did state that there were already some 800 troops, either ashore or afloat. Also on 29 October 2002, reports began to surface that indicated that the command elements of the 2nd Marine Division would deploy to Djibouti in support of operations in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

Developments in early November 2002 indicated that a command ship, most likely the USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), would depart for the region in support of Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa. This later turned out to be the case. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) passed through the Suez Canal on 8 December 2002, as they traveled toward northeast Africa. It took approximately 18 hours for the ship to travel through the Suez Canal. On 12 December 2002, the headquarters for CJTF-HOA arrived on station to oversee operations in support of the global war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa region, subsequently known as Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa.

CJTF-HOA began moving all headquarters personnel and equipment from its flagship, USS Mount Whitney in the Gulf of Aden, into facilities at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti on 6 May 2003. The newly renovated 88-acre camp, a former French Foreign Legion post owned by the Djiboutian government, would serve as CJTF-HOA's expeditionary headquarters. CJTF-HOA presence in Djibouti and the duration of operations across the region were tied to accomplishment of the counter-terrorism mission, not a fixed period of time. The CJTF mission would remain focused on detecting, disrupting and defeating transnational terrorism in conjunction with coalition partners across the Horn of Africa.

More than 300 forces arrived from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Miami, Florida; the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, New York; and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-Four Six One (HMH-461) based at New River, North Carolina. The total CJTF-HOA contingent at Camp Lemonier subsequently numbers more than 1,800, representing all branches of the US armed services, coalition military members and civilian personnel.

On 24 March 2004, German President Rau cancelled his visit to the 1,000 German soldiers stationed in Djibouti as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On 30 April 2004, General John Abizaid, the commander of CENTCOM, said in a briefing that there were about 1,200 of US personnel serving in the Horn of Africa, where they performed duties stationed in Djibouti, but which included work throughout the Horn of Africa. Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa was designed to help regional nations increase their counterterrorist capacity, to share intelligence with them, and to gain intelligence on regional terrorist operations.

CENTCOM HOA Map
Click on the small image to view a larger version

See 30 Apr 2004 CENTCOM Operational Update Briefing

In 2008, the US established a geographic combatant command for Africa, US Africa Command (AFRICOM). Responsibility for operations in the Horn of Africa, a Combined Joint Operating Area (CJOA) that initially consisted of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and Seychelles, subsequently passed from US European Command (EUCOM) and CENTCOM to AFRICOM. As of mid-2010, the CJOA no longer included Eritrea or Somalia.




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