“Pentagon Expands Footprint in Africa”
The Washington Post, September 2, 2014, p.A1
“The Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth: an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara. After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials. The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent. Although the two allies have a sporadic history of quarreling when it comes to military action, U.S. and French troops have been working hand in glove as they steadily expand their presence in impoverished West Africa. … In Chad, the U.S. Air Force has been flying drones and other aircraft from a French military base to search for hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Islamic militants in northern Nigeria. The White House approved $10 million in emergency aid on Aug. 11 to help airlift French troops and provide midair refueling for French aircraft deployed to West Africa. Analysts said the monetary sum was less important than what it symbolized: U.S. endorsement of a new French plan to deploy 3,000 troops across the region. … The U.S. military would like to increase its reconnaissance flights over Libya, where Islamist factions and tribal militias have shattered the country. Having a drone base in Agadez will make it easier to reach the vast desert terrain in southern Libya, where many itinerant Islamist fighters have regrouped after being expelled from Mali, according to security analysts.”
Quickie Analysis: An interesting look at US counterterrorism efforts in western Africa and especially US-French cooperation in the region.