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Ear to the Ground

Surveillance Drone Base in Store for Africa

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Posted on Jan 29, 2013
Beth and Christian (CC BY 2.0)

An armed MQ-1 Predator drone.

The United States’ “secret” drone war is headed for a permanent stay in northwest Africa as officials prepare to establish a base there so they can watch al-Qaida and other Islamist groups.

Officials say they are looking only to fly surveillance drones from the base. But the unarmed predator drones they plan to use can easily be armed.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali.

A new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft.

If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali. The American military’s Africa Command, or Africom, is also discussing options for the base with other countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, officials said.

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