US adds drone base in Niger to deal with North Africa
President Obama announced Friday that about 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to the West African country of Niger, where defense officials said they are setting up a drone base to spy on al-Qaeda fighters in the Sahara.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said about 40 U.S. military personnel arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of troops based there to “approximately” 100. He said the troops, who are armed for self-protection, would support a French-led military operation in neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda fighters and other militants have carved out a refuge in a remote territory the size of Texas.
The drone base in Niger marks the opening of another far-flung U.S. military operation against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, in addition to ongoing combat missions in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The CIA is also conducting airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
Senior U.S. officials have said for months that they would not put U.S. military “boots on the ground” in Mali, an impoverished nation that has been mired chaos since March when a U.S.-trained Malian army captain took power in a coup. But U.S. troops are becoming increasingly involved in the conflict from the skies and the rear echelons, where they are supporting the French and African militaries seeking to stabilize the region.
...Niger is probably the best of the bad options for a drone base in North Africa. The region has become more unstable under the Obama administration with its failed policies in Libya and the consequent spread of al Qaeda in Mali and elsewhere in the region. While the base is primarily for chasing al Qaeda in Mali, it might also be of use in helping Nigeria find the Boko Harem terrorist who are engaged in the mass murder of Christians. This administration has been nearly silent on these mass murders. It needs to become more active in helping countries deal with the persecution of Christians by Islamic religious bigots.