US military flights still suspended in Djibouti, but operations in Africa continue
STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. air operations in Djibouti remain suspended Friday after two Marine Corps aircraft were involved in crashes earlier this week, but the pause hasn’t put a stop to air strikes in neighboring Somalia, U.S. Africa Command said.
“We are still assessing the impacts of this operational pause,” said Maj. Karl Wiest, an AFRICOM spokesman.
AFRICOM did not say when it expected flights to resume. However, the pause will not affect the military’s ability to conduct counterterrorism operations in the region or perform crisis response missions, the military said.
On Thursday, while flights in Djibouti were grounded, AFRICOM carried out an airstrike in neighboring Somalia that killed three terrorists. Though Djibouti is a hub for U.S. counterterrorism efforts and a potential launching pad for strikes in Somalia, Thursday’s strike is an indication that AFRICOM has alternatives.
“As a matter of policy, I can’t go into where this strike originated from, but I will say we have a range of capabilities at various locations in the region that allow us to carry out these airstrikes,” Wiest said.
American commanders reached an agreement with the Djiboutian government to pause U.S. military flights following Tuesday’s accidents.
“That’s just a reasonable precaution by the commander on the ground to determine that we’re not doing something that we need to fix,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told Pentagon reporters Thursday.
The Navy also canceled the remainder of its Alligator Dagger exercise off Djibouti’s coast.
On Tuesday, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed at Djibouti’s international airport, forcing the pilot to eject from the aircraft. Later that day, a CH-53 helicopter suffered structural damage during a landing in Arta Beach.
“Both incidents are currently under a joint investigation, and we will provide more information when able,” Wiest said.