Obama sets up secret drone bases in Niger and Ethiopia
- American troops are now on the ground in Niger.
- US troops and drones are on the move all over Africa and in Yemen.
Our Dear Leader Comrade Obama has announced that the US has deployed 100 troops to Niger to assist French forces in neighbouring Mali.
The armed troops will provide intelligence support, Obama informed Congress on Friday. France deployed troops to Mali in January to counter al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.
The US and Niger signed a status of forces agreement last month, and the US is weighing a base for surveillance drones there, says BBC News.
A senior Niger official said in January that US Ambassador Bisa Williams requested permission to establish a drone base in a meeting with Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, the Reuters news agency reported.
Last month, the US and Niger struck an agreement on the status of US forces as the two nations "define precisely what kind of military presence we may have in Niger in the future", a spokeswoman for the US state department said.
The new deployment of US forces are stationed in Niger with the government's consent, Obama said in his letter to Congress.
Their mission will focus on "intelligence sharing", the president said. They will be armed for their own protection, he said.
Niger approves construction of US spy drone base
|U.S. Army Soldiers are training members of the Ghanaian Defense Forces.|
|Americans embed themselves with the Ghanaian Defense Force platoons and advised them on problem solving techniques and tactics.|
The drone base in Niger marks the opening of another far-flung U.S. military operation against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, in addition to ongoing combat missions in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The CIA is also conducting airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
Senior U.S. officials have said for months that they would not put U.S. military “boots on the ground” in Mali, an impoverished nation that has been mired in chaos since March when a U.S.-trained Malian army captain took power in a coup. But U.S. troops are becoming increasingly involved in the conflict from the skies and the rear echelons, where they are supporting the French and African militaries seeking to stabilize the region.
Obama did not explicitly reveal the drone base in his letter to Congress, but he said the U.S. troops in Niger would “provide support for intelligence collection” and share intelligence with French forces in Mali.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide further details about military operations, said the 40 troops who arrived in Niger on Wednesday were almost all Air Force personnel and that their mission is to support drone flights says the Washington Post.
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The official said drone operations were “imminent,” but declined to say whether unmanned Predator aircraft had already arrived in Niger or how many would be deployed there. The drones will be based initially in the capital, Niamey, but military officials would like to move them eventually to the northern city of Agadez, which is closer to parts of northern Mali where al-Qaeda cells have taken root.
“That’s a better location for the mission, but it’s not feasible at this point,” the official said, adding that Agadez is a more remote city “with logistical challenges.”
|Secret Drone Base|
A new secret drone base at Arba Minch is located
about 300 miles south of Addis Ababa and about
600 miles west of the Somali border. Standard
models of the Reaper have a range of about
1,150 miles, according to the Air Force.
The introduction of Predators to Niger fills a gap in the Pentagon’s military capabilities over the Sahara, which remains beyond the reach of its drone bases in East Africa and southern Europe.
The U.S. military has been flying a handful of small turboprop surveillance planes over northern Mali and West Africa for years, but the PC-12 aircraft are limited in range and lack the sophisticated sensors that Predators carry.
U.S. military contractors have been flying PC-12 surveillance aircraft from Agadez for several months. But those planes do not carry military markings and only require a handful of people to operate.
In contrast, Predators need ground crews to launch and recover the drones as well as to repair and maintain them. Those crews, in turn, require armed personnel for protection.
The U.S. defense official said it is likely that more U.S. troops will deploy to Niger, but declined to be specific. "I think it’s safe to say the number will probably grow.”
The Predators in Niger will only conduct surveillance, not airstrikes, the official said. “This is purely an intelligence gathering mission,” he said. Other officials said the Obama administration had not ruled out arming the Predators with missiles in the future.
Information collected from reconnaissance missions will be shared with the French and other African militaries so they can attack al-Qaeda targets, officials said.
Obama noted that the government of Niger had given its consent for U.S. troops to operate on its territory.
Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, signed an agreement with the United States last month that provides legal safeguards for U.S. forces stationed there. Nigerien officials are concerned about the spillover of violence and refugees from Mali, which have threatened to destabilize the entire region.