Skip to comments.Drone base in Niger gives U.S. a strategic foothold in West Africa
Posted on 03/21/2013 7:40:33 PM PDT by Pan_Yan
NIAMEY, Niger The newest outpost in the U.S. governments empire of drone bases sits behind a razor-wire-topped wall outside this West African capital, blasted by 110-degree heat and the occasional sandstorm blowing from the Sahara.
The U.S. Air Force began flying a handful of unarmed Predator drones from here last month. The gray, mosquito-shaped aircraft emerge sporadically from a borrowed hangar and soar north in search of al-Qaeda fighters and guerrillas from other groups hiding in the regions untamed deserts and hills.
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has relied heavily on drones for operations, both declared and covert, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. U.S. drones also fly from allied bases in Turkey, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.
Now, they are becoming a fixture in Africa. The U.S. military has built a major drone hub in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, and flies unarmed Reaper drones from Ethiopia. Until recently, it conducted reconnaissance flights over East Africa from the island nation of the Seychelles.
The Predator drones in Niger, a landlocked and dirt-poor country, give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa. Niger shares a long border with Mali, where an al-Qaeda affiliate and other Islamist groups have taken root. Niger also borders Libya and Nigeria, which are also struggling to contain armed extremist movements.
Like other U.S. drone bases, the Predator operations in Niger are shrouded in secrecy. The White House announced Feb. 22 that Obama had deployed about 100 military personnel to Niger on an intelligence collection mission, but it did not make any explicit reference to drones.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
“Like other U.S. drone bases, the Predator operations in Niger are shrouded in secrecy.”
They physical fact of the base is essentially impossible to hide. Anyone with a camera can “out” the existence of the base, and its overall purpose, in minutes. The secrecy part refers to the actual purpose of the base, and of the drones housed there.
It's hard to imagine the ambassador of one sovereign nation going up to the leader of another sovereign nation and saying "we'd like to rent some space to house a spy agency and assassination squad right here next to your capitol."
Yet that's exactly what we do.