President Obama, right, shakes hands with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, during a May 5 press availability before their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has finalized a 10-year agreement with Djibouti to keep U.S. troops at a military base in the East African nation that houses special forces and serves as a launching point for drones.
“This is a critical facility that we maintain in Djibouti,” President Obama said Monday during an Oval Office meeting with Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh. “We could not do it without the president’s cooperation. We’re grateful for him agreeing for a long-term presence there.”
Djibouti, a tiny nation of less than 1 million people, has become a linchpin of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in Africa and the Middle East. The U.S. military base Camp Lemonnier houses conventional forces, as well as special forces and aerial drones believed to be flown over Yemen and Somalia.
An administration official said the new $63 million per year lease would allow the U.S. to keep personnel and equipment at the camp for 10 more years. The agreement includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years without renegotiating the terms, as well as a provision to extend for an additional 10 years beyond that at a renegotiated rate, according to the official.
The official insisted on anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the agreement publicly by name.
The terms of the lease indicate that the U.S. is likely to maintain a long-term military presence in Djibouti. Camp Lemonnier is the only U.S. base in sub-Saharan Africa.
Guelleh said his country’s arrangement with U.S. forces is a sign of Djibouti’s “support for international peace and for peace in our region as well.”