When unveiling the Trump administration’s new Africa policy on Thursday, national security adviser John Bolton made a point to speak about a single container port in the tiny East African nation of Djibouti. Officials say the Doraleh Container Terminal is critical for resupplying the only permanent U.S. base in Africa, and Bolton said China could take control of this port.
While Djibouti is slightly smaller than New Jersey and has a population of less than 1 million, its strategic location gives it an outsize influence. At the southern end of the Red Sea, Djibouti is on the shipping route between Asia and the Suez Canal. Every day an estimated 4.8 million barrels of oil transit the Bab el-Mandab strait adjacent to Djibouti.
Djibouti’s proximity to terrorist havens in Yemen and Somalia also made it an ideal location for the U.S. military. Camp Lemonnier, a former French foreign legion base, became an expeditionary base for counterterrorism operations after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The base, which shares a runway with Djibouti’s only international airport, has grown significantly over the years.