New scramble for Africa: Foreign military bases in Africa

United States

U.S. military bases, outposts, port facilities, and other areas of access in Africa, 2002-2015 | Nick Turse/TomDispatch, 2015 (Click to enlarge)

In 2015 the United States publicly disclosed that it has 46 U.S. bases of different types in Africa, after claiming for years it only had one. Previously secret documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed what has long been known which is that the U.S. operates various levels of outposts across Africa. The documents divide the bases into three categories: forward operating sites, cooperative security locations and contingency locations.

According to the documents, forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so. The various bases form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate, particularly since September 2012. Documents also note that any of the cooperative security locations can easily be “scaled up” to function as a “major logistics hub.”

Ascension Island: The base on this Territory of the United Kingdom on the west coast of Africa and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti are considered “enduring locations” with sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” serving as hubs for staging missions across Africa.

Burkina Faso: A cooperative security location in Ouagadougou is said to provide “surveillance and intelligence over the Sahel.”

Burundi: There is a contingency location in Bujumbura.

Botswana: In 2016 outgoing U.S. Army Africa commander Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams announced that a cooperative security location was being built in Botswana

Cameroon: Garoua airport in northern Cameroon is a drone base used against Nigerians. It houses unarmed Predator drones and some 300 U.S. soldiers.

Chad: Predator and Reaper drones are based in the capital, Ndjamena. There is a contingency location in Faya Largeau.

Central African Republic: U.S. special forces are based in Obo, Djema and Sam Ouandja.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Dungu is listed as a “temporary site.”

Djibouti: Camp Lemonnier is a 200-hectare expeditionary base housing some 3,200 U.S. soldiers and civilians next to the international airport. Home to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa of the U.S. Africa Command, this was long claimed to be the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

Chabelley Airfield, a former French Foreign Legion post, is a regional hub for unmanned aircraft for Africa and the Middle East. According to an article in The Nation, ”By the beginning of October 2015, for example, drones flown from Chabelley had already logged more than 24,000 hours of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and were also, according to the Air Force, ‘responsible for the neutralization of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals” in Iraq and Syria.

Ethiopia: A small drone facility at Arba Minch, operational since 2011 but now said to have closed, is listed as a contingency location.

Gabon: A base in Libreville was listed in 2015 as a “proposed” cooperative security location in released documents but was actually used in 2014 and 2015 as a key base for Operation Echo Casemate, the joint U.S.-French-African military response to unrest in the Central African Republic.

Ghana: There is a cooperative security location in Accra.

Kenya: Camp Simba in Manda Bay is a base for naval personnel and Green Berets. It also houses armed drones for operations in Somalia and Yemen. There is a contingency location in Lakipia, the site of a Kenyan Air Force base; and another Kenyan airfield at Wajir that was upgraded and expanded by the U.S. Navy earlier in this decade.

Liberia: There is a contingency location in Monrovia.

Mali: Both Bamako and Gao are listed as contingency locations. Gao is the base of the UN Mission in Mali where Canada will send military advisors to determine the full scope of Canada’s mission according to Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff.

Mauritania: There are contingency locations in both Ouassa and Nema.

Niger: A base in Niamey is listed as a contingency location.

Nigeria: A Nigerian military base at Agadez is listed among the “proposed” cooperative security locations in released documents. The United States is, in fact, pouring $100 million into building up the base, according to a 2016 investigation by The Intercept.

Somalia: U.S. commandos are operating from compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle.

South Sudan: Nzara is listed as a contingency location. Nzara airfield is reported to be a base for U.S. troops searching for Joseph Kony, and related surveillance operations. U.S. special forces have also provided training to South Sudanese troops.

The Seychelles: Drone operations are carried out from a base on the island of Victoria.

Senegal: There is a cooperative security location in Dakar.

Tunisia: The U.S. has been flying drones at an air base here.

Uganda: PC-12 surveillance aircraft fly from Entebbe airport as part of U.S. special forces operations. Kasenyi is also listed as a contingency location.


Chad: Headquarters of France’s anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane, its roughly 3,500 French troops operate in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Cote d’Ivoire: The facility at Port-Bouët, a suburb of Abidjan, is to be expanded from 500 to 900 men and form a forward operating base for West Africa.

Djibouti: The base for a long-standing French military presence, now comprising roughly 1,700 personnel.

Gabon: A key base that has contributed troops to France’s interventions in Central African Republic.

United Kingdom

Kenya: A permanent training support unit is based mainly in Nanyuki, 200 kilometres north of Nairobi.


Niger: An air transport base at Niamey international airport supports Germany’s military presence in Mali.

United Arab Emirates

Eritrea: In 2015, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began developing the deepwater port of Assab and its 3,500-metre runway, capable of landing large transport planes. Assab is now the UAE’s main logistics hub for all military operations in Yemen, including the naval blockade of the Red Sea ports of Mokha and Hodeida.

Libya: UAE operates counter-insurgency attack aircraft and drones from Al-Khadim airport in eastern Libya.

Somalia: UAE trains and equips Somalia’s counterterrorism unit and National Intelligence and Security Agency. It has a 30-year lease on a naval and airbase at the port of Berbera in Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia which has declared itself independent. The BBC has reported that the UAE intends to establish its own base there.

Saudi Arabia

Djibouti: In 2017 Saudi Arabia signed a military cooperation agreement with Djibouti that includes an agreement for Saudi Arabia to build a new base. Djibouti is a member of the Saudi-led coalition which is waging a war of aggression in Yemen.


Somalia: Turkey has a training facility for Somali troops.


Djibouti: China has established a logistics base which it says is for resupplying Chinese vessels on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions at the port of Obock. The base will have the capacity to house several thousand troops. It lies next to the Doraleh Multipurpose Port, partly operated by China Merchants Holdings.


Madagascar: India’s first foreign listening post, set up in 2007, is said to be for monitoring ship movements in the Indian Ocean and to listen in on maritime communications.

The Seychelles: Land has been allocated on Assumption Island for India to build its first naval base in the Indian Ocean region.


Djibouti: Since 2011, a contingent of 180 troops has occupied a 12-hectare site next to U.S. Camp Lemonnier. In 2017, plans were made to expand the base.

(With files from, The Nation, TomDispatch, BBC)

From TML Weekly, April 7, 2018. See also Nick Turse’s recent book, “Tomorrow’s Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa.”

Related reading on this website

US empire of African bases

A wider world of war: Under Trump, US Special Forces deployed to 149 countries in 2017

The US military moves deeper into Africa

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  1. Pingback: التواجد العسكري الأمريكي في أفريقيا.. دوافعه وتداعياته على استقرار الدول الأفريقية - مركز فاروس للاستشارات والدراسات الاستراتيجية

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