U.S. Military Preparing to Establish a New Drone Base in Africa Related to the Mali Mission

The Ledger
By Eric Schmitt
January 28, 2013

The U.S. military is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of al-Qaida and other Islamist extremist groups that U.S. and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.

For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. The U.S. 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 al-Qaida-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali.

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

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