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Niger agrees to US drone base: Report

Source: US given 'green light' to establish a new drone unit in Africa's Niger.

Predator Drone AfricaEnlarge
A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in 2010. Drones have been a key element of the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and now, possibly, Africa. (Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images)

Niger has reportedly lent its support to US plans to set up a new drone base there, according to Al Jazeera

US ambassador to Niger Bisa Williams on Monday asked Niger's president if US surveillance drones could be stationed there to help monitor militant threats in the region, a proposal he immediately accepted, said the source cited by Al Jazeera

"Niger has given the green light to accepting surveillance drones on its soil to improve the collection of intelligence on Islamist movements," the source said, according to the report

It is not clear whether or not the White House has cleared plans for a new drone base in Niger, a move that would see it join the five other US-drone-hosting African countries, Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Djibouti, said Al Jazeera

The Guardian said it is "believed" that the base "could pave the way for more aggressive armed drones in the future." The Pentagon would not comment, reported the Guardian; nor would the US African Command, said Al Jazeera

The US on Monday signed a new military agreement with Niger that US defense officials said will help "counter shared threats in the region," according to The Wall Street Journal

A Niger official also told Reuters on Tuesday that Niger was receptive to the drone plan. The move comes as the French lead a military offensive against militants in nearby Mali, highlighting growing concern over extremist activity on the continent. 

Current plans for the base are said to be restricted to US monitoring in the region -- the drones would not carry weapons. But administration sources refused to rule out the possibility of using the base for missile strikes if threatened, according to NYT

The Atlantic's Wire was more explicit, writing: "it doesn't take much imagination to find other uses for such an outpost or the planes that are based there," later adding that the move is "a clear signal that the US now considers North Africa to be a theater in the never-ending, non-declared war on terror (with lowercase letters)." 

No additional details on the proposed base were immediately available. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/130130/niger-agrees-us-drone-base-report