Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

American troops in Niger to set up drone base

Feb. 23, 2013 - 02:41PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 23, 2013 - 02:41PM  |  
  • Filed Under

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama said Friday that about 100 American troops have been deployed to the African nation of Niger. Two U.S. defense officials said the troops would be setting up a base for unarmed drones to conduct surveillance.

Obama announced the deployment in a letter to Congress, saying that the forces "will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region."

The move marks a deepening of U.S. efforts to stem the spread of al-Qaida and its affiliates in the volatile region. It also underscores Obama's desire to fight extremism without involving large numbers of U.S. ground forces.

The drone base will allow the U.S. to give France more intelligence on the militants its forces have been fighting in Mali, which neighbors Niger. Over time, it could extend the reach not only of American intelligence-gathering but also U.S. special operations missions to strengthen Niger's own security forces.

One of the two U.S. defense officials who discussed the development confirmed the American troops would fly drones and other surveillance platforms from Niger military airstrips, tracking militant and refugee movement inside Mali and around the border. The U.S. will share that intelligence with Niger's military, the official said.

Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the project.

The drones at the Niger base will be unarmed and used for surveillance, not airstrikes. Still, the development of a base in Niger raises the possibility that it could eventually be used for launching strikes.

Obama said in his letter to Congress that the U.S. forces have been deployed with the consent of Niger's government. The forces were also deployed with weapons "for their own force protection and security," the president said.

Last month, the U.S. and Niger signed a status-of-forces-agreement spelling out legal protections and obligations of American forces that might operate in Niger in the future.

Africa is increasingly a focus of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, even as al-Qaida remains a threat in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Last month's terrorist attack on a natural gas complex in Algeria, in which at least 37 hostages and 29 militants were killed, illustrated the threat posed by extremists who have asserted power propelled by long-simmering ethnic tensions in Mali and the revolution in Libya.

A number of al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist groups operate in Mali and elsewhere in the Sahara, including a group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which originated in Algeria and is active in northern Mali. Last month, French forces intervened to stop the extremists' move toward Mali's capital, and Washington has grown more involved by providing a variety of military support to French troops.

France has said it will eventually pull out of its Mali operation so that African forces can help stabilize the West African country.

AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.

Answers sponsored by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

Top TA & GI Bill schools
Most popular colleges cater to troops by taking classes to them

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook