Admit it. You don’t know where Chad is. You know it’s in Africa, of course. But beyond that? Maybe with a map of the continent and by some process of elimination you could come close. But you’d probably pick Sudan or maybe the Central African Republic. Here’s a tip. In the future, choose that vast, arid swath of land just below Libya.
Who does know where Chad is? That answer is simpler: the US military. Recent contracting documents indicate that it’s building something there. Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp.
That the US military is expanding its efforts in Africa shouldn’t be a shock anymore. For years now, the Pentagon has been increasing its missions there and promoting a mini-basing boom that has left it with a growing collection of outposts sprouting across the northern tier of the continent. This string of camps is meant to do what more than a decade of counterterrorism efforts, including the training and equipping of local military forces and a variety of humanitarian hearts-and-minds missions, has failed to accomplish: transform the Trans-Sahara region in the northern and western parts of the continent into a bulwark of stability.
That the United States is doing more in Chad specifically isn’t particularly astonishing either. Earlier this year, TomDispatch and The Washington Post both reported on separate recent deployments of US troops to that north-central African nation. Nor is it shocking that the new American compound is to be located near the capital, N’Djamena. The United States has previously employed N’Djamena as a hub for its air operations. What’s striking is the terminology used in the official documents. After years of adamant claims that the US military has just one lonely base in all of Africa—Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti—Army documents state that it will now have “base camp facilities” in Chad.