Niger: US considering new drone base in Africa

[Other reports have said that the US is already utilizing numerous remote airstrips throughout Africa for drone surveillance, and are actively preparing them for armed drone deployments. As this article points out, the utilization of drones is accompanying the AFRICOM deployment of military trainers to nearly every African Union country, to enable the US and EU’s intensified “scramble for Africa” against competing imperial countries whose efforts have been largely confined (so far) to the economic seizure of African resources. — Frontlines ed.]

30 January, 2013

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a small US-made drone drone that the Ugandan military uses in Somalia to fight al-Qaida linked militants (AFP Photo / Pool / Jacquelyn Martin)

[Photo:  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a small US-made drone drone that the Ugandan military uses in Somalia to fight al-Qaida linked militants (AFP Photo / Pool / Jacquelyn Martin)]

The US is planning to consolidate its position in Africa with a new drone outpost in Niger, with the stated purpose of providing unarmed surveillance support to French efforts in Mali and keeping tabs on al-Qaeda elements on the continent.

The robotic unmanned aircraft would likely be based in Niger, on the eastern border of Mali, where French forces are currently waging a campaign against Al-Qaeda, AFP reported, quoting an anonymous official.

If the plan is approved, up to 300 US military servicemembers and contractors could be sent to the base to operate the drone aircraft, the New York Times reported. US Africa Command is also considering another location as an alternative to the base in Burkina Faso, the official said.

However, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reiterated that there are no plans to commit US troops to any fighting on the ground.

In the future, the US command does not rule out using the base to conduct military strikes if the situation deteriorates or the extremist threat increases, military officials told The New York Times. Continue reading