One Take on Djibouti: 'World War III Will Start Here'

A look at the country, home to more foreign militaries than anywhere in the world
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2018 10:09 AM CST
In this photo provided by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and U.S. Air Force, U.S. Airmen from the 449th Air Expeditionary Group load pallets of medical and humanitarian aid supplies, to...   (Staff Sgt. Gustavo Castillo/U.S. Air Force via AP)

(Newser) – The US has a single full-scale military base in all of Africa: It's in Djibouti, and we have more than a few neighbors there. Politico takes a look at the small country in the Horn of Africa (it's the size of New Hampshire) and the continually expanding military presence there. It hosts more foreign bases than anywhere else in world, a fact Politico attributes to its strategic location at the mouth of the Red Sea, where it sees "a large percentage of the trade and energy flows between Europe and Asia." France set up shop there first; Italy and Britain have a presence, per the New York Times; China and Japan have but one foreign base each, and it's there. Saudi Arabia is coming, and there are whispers that Turkey, Russia, and India could, too. If we get to that point, Bruno Maçães writes that every big global power will have a presence there, and that raises some big questions for him.

Here's one: What happens if two major players—say, China and India—go to war, and just happen to have bases near one another? Here's another: Would a country ever decide to avoid full-scale war but launch an attack on a rival's Djibouti base? As a member of Djibouti's intelligence service tells Maçães, "World War III will start here." Quartz also floats the idea that the situation could imperil Djibouti itself. It has increasingly welcomed foreign militaries under current President Ismael Omar Guelleh, who flung open the country's doors post-9/11 in exchange for hefty fees (the US pays $63 million a year). But the head of a think tank that's focused on the region warns that "the Horn of Africa and the Middle East are currently rough neighborhoods, and Djibouti may find itself making enemies, not through any action of its own, but as a consequence of the actions of its military guests."

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