Tags: Emerging Threats | War on Terrorism | terrorism | Islamists | drones | Niger | Pentagon

Pentagon Expands Drone Surveillance in West Africa

By    |   Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 07:14 AM

The U.S. is preparing to bring a second drone base online in the remote West African country of Niger as it broadens anti-terrorism surveillance operations in Africa, The Washington Post reported.

The Pentagon already has a drone base in Chad and another Niger. In both countries the U.S. military is collaborating with France, the former colonial power in the region. In Niger's capital Niamey, American and French drone hangars are situated side-by-side on a French airbase. Drone surveillance out of Chad is also flown from a French military base.

The French have a robust ground presence and recently deployed an additional 3,000 troops to the area. With France taking the lead on the ground, the U.S. Air Force can concentrate on its unarmed drone surveillance flights.

The newest Niger base at Agadez, in the middle of the Sahara, makes it easier to gather intelligence over Mali, the Sahara desert, and southern Libya. Flights from the other Niger base at Niamey may be discontinued. Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou gave a green light to the second base in Washington on Aug. 7 after the Obama administration's U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency has sought bids for the delivery of millions of gallons of jet fuel as well as for a runway upgrade at Agadez.

There is a high demand for surveillance drones. Aircraft based in the Middle East have been flying regularly over Iraq while aircraft based in Sicily are flying over Libya. The unmanned planes are also in demand for reconnaissance in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, according to the Post.

U.S.-French military cooperation has not always been possible because the two countries compete economically and politically in Africa. Fighting the Islamists has brought Washington and Paris closer, with the Obama administration making $10 million available to enhance French airlift and aerial refueling capabilities, AllAfrica reported.

"We have this confluence of interests where both countries are working much more closely than would have been thought possible just a couple of years ago," according to Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, the Post reported.

Unlike the French who tout their military presence in Africa, the U.S. generally maintains a lower profile for its spy aircraft, according to the Post.


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The U.S. is preparing to bring a second drone base online in the remote West African country of Niger as it broadens anti-terrorism surveillance operations in Africa.
terrorism, Islamists, drones, Niger, Pentagon, West Africa, France
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2014-14-02
Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 07:14 AM
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