Cablegate: Olhaye Meeting with General Robeson

Published: Mon 1 Mar 2004 01:25 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2014
Classified By: POLOFF C. BEAMER FOR REASONS 1.5 A and D
1. (S/NF) Djiboutian Ambassador to the United States Roble
Olhaye met at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti on February 25 with
Brigadier General Mastin Robeson. Ambassador Olhaye is
nearing the end of a two week stay in Djibouti and was
present for Ambassador Ragsdale's credentialing ceremony on
the 23rd. General Robeson and Olhaye focused on the way
forward for a long term lease relationship between the
Department of Defense and the Government of Djibouti. End
2. (S/NF) Olhaye congratulated General Robeson for having
achieved a lot in a short period, making a number of camp
improvements, and making his presence felt over the Red Sea
and in neighboring countries. General Robeson thanked Olhaye
and asked if he had suggestions for how his organization's
effectiveness could be improved. Olhaye responded that he
thought the task force was doing the right thing,
coordinating with militaries in the region and making people
feel accepted. He said that President was positive about
their actions and that their civil affairs efforts in
particular had been very well received in Djibouti.
3. (S/NF) General Robeson then raised the base's long term
lease relationship and how to make it amenable to both sides.
Olhaye responded that he had discussed the issue with DOD
for the Government of Djibouti. Djibouti welcomed the U.S.
presence and would continue to do all it could to provide
facilities but it desired a long term commitment. He said
Djibouti was not in a position to put any timelines or
constraints on the USG, that the U.S. was "welcome to stay
permanently if it wished and to expand, to be more
comfortable." Olhaye added that Djibouti will try its best
to provide what the military needs and to be welcoming.
General Robeson asked Olhaye if he would be involved in lease
negotiations and the Olhaye responded positively that he
would be representing the Djiboutian Government in
Washington. He went on to say that the lease was not really
a question of signatures or price noting that his initial
proposal to the USG was for 150 million dollars. "The 15
million we're actually getting is only important to us as a
symbol of partnership, what comes from the U.S. presence here
is what is important."
4. (S/NF) General Robeson responded that eventually the U.S.
would not have a permanent presence in Djibouti but that we
wanted to leave a stronger, more capable Djiboutian military
behind that was doing things right. He stressed that with
efforts in border security, coastal security, and
anti-terrorism he wanted to help the Djiboutian Military
understand the impact it can have nationally by partnering
with outlying regions and acting as an engine of national
5. (S/NF) Olhaye stated that he thought the specifics of
military to military discussions should be resolved by
General Robeson's leadership. Olhaye saw no reason for
stalemate on such issues but said they should be handled fast
and in an acceptable manner here on the ground. He asked
General Robeson to "use your wisdom, see their point of view,
come to consensus and resolve the matter." General Robeson
responded that he was looking for a positive way to move
forward so that the military to military relationship was a
happy one.
6. (S/NF) In this regard, General Robeson said, he had two
options for resolving current tensions that revolved around
the Djiboutian airbase/Presidential hangar that was ceded to
the USG under the current lease. The first was to move the
airbase to an area near the civilian hangers. Olhaye stated
that that was not possible. General Robeson went on to note
that the Djiboutians could stay in that space but that the
security measures he would take would hem them in and they
would be unable to grow. The General emphasized that either
the Djiboutian military needed to content itself with the
current space limitations or move further east of Camp
Lemonier near the water. Olhaye said either option was
possible, there would be no noise on the issue, but that if
the Djiboutian Military moved CJTF-HOA would have to "help
them move." Olhaye went on to say that if freedom of access
could be provided to the Djiboutian military, everything
could be sorted out. He said his government was not happy
with him when he signed and that "we are beyond the original
7. (S/NF) Olhaye stressed that frictions should be kept here
at the local level and that there were problems with giving
the General more ramp space at the Eastern edge of Camp
Lemonier. The General responded that a written proposal was
being drafted in Washington for additional acreage and the
issue would have to be resolved at another level. Olhaye
said he felt the French might have designs on that land as
they were expanding with another 1,400 troops on the ground
in Djibouti. When queried on the possibility of a new
civilian airport on the other side of the bay from Camp
Lemonier, Olhaye responded that "nothing was imminent."
8. (S/NF) In closing General Robeson stated that he hoped
the proposal turned out to be amenable and acceptable to
Djibouti. Olhaye responded that from his point of view
everything should be done together rather than in piece meal
fashion. The General concurred that a holistic approach
would be best and he hoped we could move quickly on
implementing a long term solution which does not hinder our
warm relations. He said the easiest solution was to
acknowledge that the airbase you want is yours and if
additional space is needed eastward expansion is possible.
General Robeson stressed that this issue should not affect
the relationship at all and that he knew Generals Fahti and
Zakaria had worked hard to maintain close relations with us.
He said he had given his word that he would not go home until
this issue had been resolved and that he was scheduled to
depart in May.
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