Tuesday February 13, 2018
In his November 19, 2017 column in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, political researcher ‘Amr ‘Abd Al-Sami’ wrote that Egypt should establish military bases outside its borders, in the Horn of Africa, as many other countries have done. This move, he said, was necessary in light of the challenges facing the countries of the region and the strategic importance of the Horn of Africa for Egypt.
It should be mentioned that in the recent months, there have been many reports that Egypt has allowed Russian military jets to use bases in its territory, and that an agreement is being drafted between the two countries allowing mutual use of their territorial airspace and military bases.
The following are excerpts from ‘Abd Al-Sami”s column:
“Does Egypt need military bases outside [its borders]? The answer is definitely yes. The question and answer occurred to me [after encountering] the recent leaks from the United States Africa Command [Africom] about the number of American troops active in Somalia against ISIS and the extremist Shabab Al-Islam [sic., probably referring to Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen]. Before that, I obviously perused reports on the establishment of French, Chinese, Russian, American, and Turkish bases in the Horn of Africa, [a region] that is strategically important for Egypt, since it commands the crucially important Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, the narrow southern gateway to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
“At the Turkish base in Somalia, for example, 200,000 Turkish troops and tens of thousands of Somali troops will be housed and trained. The declared purpose [of establishing this base] was to pursue and besiege the Somali Shabab Al-Islam movement, which is linked to Al-Qaeda… But the real goal is control of the Red Sea shipping lanes, so as to grant [Turkey] significant ability to spread [and maintain a military] presence in the major conflict zones, just as its bases in Qatar [enable it to do].
“[Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah] Al-Sisi defined the strategic mission of our [armed] forces as ‘defense of Egypt’s national security in and out of the country,’ referring to the recent [Egyptian] airstrikes against the terrorists in Libya. In addition, among Egypt’s declared strategic goals is the defense of the security of the Gulf, which it describes as part of its [own] security, as well as many tasks related to illegal immigration via the Mediterranean…
“Don’t anyone tell me that establishing military bases outside Egypt is not part of our policy, for Egypt’s continued presence in the islands of Tiran and Sanafir [which Egypt recently ceded to Saudi Arabia] was part of [precisely such a policy]. [Establishing such] military bases has a political and economic price that we must pay, as Russia did in its agreement with Damascus for building two military bases in Khmeimim and Tartus for a period of 50 years.
“Egypt needs military presence on the ground, for the upcoming challenges in the region will be very great.”