afrol News, 3 February - After the establishment of a base camp in Djibouti for German naval forces participating in the US-led anti-terrorism campaign, the German government is negotiating with Kenya to establish yet another camp in Mombasa. Somali Puntland could be a target for operations. Meanwhile, Kenya already notes the greatest concentration of foreign soldiers in its history.
Spokesman of the German Ministry of Defence, Jochen Cholin, yesterday told the press a "Fact Finding Team" of 26 soldiers currently was in Kenya, investigating "whether one could establish another German military base in Africa apart from Djibouti," saying the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa would be a preferred location. It remained unclear how many German soldiers eventually would be sent to Mombasa, but sources in the Ministry mentioned the stationing of three airplanes.
To fulfil its tasks of "monitoring sea traffic in the Indian Ocean," Cholin informed that the German army wanted an air base for its marines in Mombasa. With the air force in Mombasa and several navy vessels stationed in the harbour of Djibouti, Germany would cover the most feared waters of Africa, the Somali and Yemeni coasts.
German operations in the US-led "Enduring Freedom" campaign are concentrated on the African Horn to "break the logistic lines of terrorist organisations" (Cholin). Three frigates and four smaller vessels equipped with 1800 German soldiers are already involved in monitoring the waters off the Horn. More vessels are on their way from Germany. Recently, German soldiers started establishing the operation's headquarters in the port of Djibouti, where 140 soldiers are to be deployed.
Negotiations to establish a German base on the Horn had been tough, German media reported, and a solution was found only in the last minute. The German navy vessels had left home one month ago without knowing the exact destination, but knew they were travelling towards the Horn. A German military delegation finally reached a deal with the Djibouti government, the preferred destination. Alternative destinations Kenya and Oman were assessed at too far away, while Somalia or Somaliland were not even considered.
Officially, the mission only is to monitor sea traffic in the waters between Yemen and Somalia. Speculations, the German troops are to get involved in operations on Somali territory are firmly denied. Admiral Gottfried Hoch, commander of the German mission in Djibouti, said; "Of course Somalia is in the far corner of our territory of operations, but our objective is to patrol the Red Sea region."
The negotiations with the Kenyan government over the establishment of an air base in Mombasa however have created an element of doubt over the intentions of the operation. Further, the US government reportedly has negotiated with the government of the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland in north-western Somalia, concerning the use of the Russian ex-military base of Berbera. The French already operate a permanent base in Djibouti. Allied bases in Djibouti, Berbera and Mombasa would literary surround Somalia.
Somalia has been suspected of harbouring Islamist groups connected to al Qa'ida, and to be a potential free haven for terrorists, although all reports from Somalia indicate that there are no active terrorist cells in the country. However, the self-proclaimed autonomous administration of Puntland in north-eastern Somalia has become a source of concern during the last months, as two rivalling governments are accusing each other of having terrorist contacts. Clashes are frequent in Puntland, and there are reports of radical Islamic groups operating in the area.
Foreign troops are already building up in Kenya, where local media report about a "multi-national training that will be held in Indian Ocean from February 8 to 25" (Nairobi based daily, 'The Nation'). Three thousand US marines had arrived in Kenya on Saturday to participate in the military exercise, which US and French officials categorically deny has anything to do with the war against terrorism.
The high concentration of allied troops on both sides of Somalia, officially involved in "monitoring" or "training", raises fears in Somalia an attack is due within short. Especially the present situation in Puntland leads observers to consider the possibility of land-based operations likely.
Some 16 nations, hundred vessels and 40,000 soldiers are engaged in the worldwide operations of "Enduring Freedom". Few, however, know what they are to do or if they are to do anything else than "being present". German Admiral Hoch admits his "greatest challenge is keeping our boys and girls in good mood."
Boredom and ridicule in the national press were the common frustrations among the German soldiers, according to media reports. While Djibouti is described as a "godforsaken" spot on earth (even the beer is three times the price in Germany), the troops seem to be longing for action. On signal from the US, they will go anywhere.