Djibouti Receives US HMMWVs

The Armed Forces of Djibouti have taken receipt of 54 up-armoured HMMWVs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles) destined for the Army’s RIB or Rapid Intervention Brigade. The HMMWVs are one part of a $31 million USD ‘train and assist’ or more officially the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program provided by the US military.

Formed in 2018, the RIB is trained and equipped by Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) to provide a quick reaction light infantry force for the Djiboutian Army. Until the arrival of the HMMWVs, which appear to be the M1151 Enhanced Armament Carrier variant, the RIB had no motorised response capability. The unit is currently being trained by Task Force Guardian, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 186th Infantry Battalion of the Oregon National Guard under attachment to CJTF-HOA.

The country is strategically vital to operations to counter jihadists in Africa with Camp Lemonnier, the headquarters of AFRICOM’s CJTF-HOA, key to the efforts. Lemonnier serves as a forward staging area for numerous US, French and allied special operations elements. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) manages a small fleet of Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles out of Lemonnier and is home to a bewildering variety of JSOC, CIA and SOCOM ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) aircraft. Due to its geographic location, it is ideally located to support operations around the Horn of Africa into Somalia and Yemen.

A non-commissioned officer with the Djiboutian Army’s Rapid Intervention Battalion (RIB) instructs a new recruit at a training site outside Djibouti City, July 3, 2018. The RIB is a U.S. Army trained unit that was formed to respond to crises and promote regional security and stability in East Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Ahearn)

Task Force Guardian are training RIB in “… light infantry tactics, mission planning, weapons training, first aid, land navigation, communication exercises…” according to CJTF-HOA. Djibouti has a small standing army and the RIB is believed to be its first quasi-special operations force (SOF). For large scale or complex SOF tasks, the Djiboutian Army would be directly supported by US or French SOF.

Somalia’s al-Shabaab terrorist group has threatened to target sites in Djibouti as recently as November last year and their attack on Camp Simba in Kenya (as reported here on Overt Defense) illustrates that the group has the capability to launch reasonably complex cross-border incursions. Al-Shabaab previously conducted a deadly May 2014 attack in Djibouti City.