AFRICA: U.S. Troops in Niger to Aid French in Mali

February 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

White House Informs Congress

Map of Niger(CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

U.S. troops have been deployed to the North African nation of Niger to aid French military operations against Islamist militants in neighboring Mali.

In a letter to congressional leaders today (Feb. 22) President Barack Obama said approximately 40 military personnel entered Niger two days earlier — with Niger government approval — bringing the U.S. contingent in the desert nation to 100.

Obama said the U.S. troops were in Niger to “provide support for intelligence collection” and “facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali.

The announcement confirms previous news reports that the U.S. was setting up an airfield in Niger to accommodate unarmed surveillance drones to monitor the situation in Mali and elsewhere in the region.

The Pentagon’s news service reported that most of the U.S. contingent were Air Force specialists. U.S. Africa Command recommended placing unarmed drones in Niger “to support a range of regional security missions and engagements with partner nations,” the American Forces Press Service reported.

Last month, the United States and Niger signed an agreement on the status of American forces in Niger.

Niamey, Niger's capital, at night.(Photo via wikipedia)

Niamey, Niger’s capital, where the drone base will be located.
(Photo via wikipedia)

French forces began an airstrike campaign last month — at the request of Mali’s president — against insurgents who were threatening the West African nation’s  capital, Bamako. The U.S. Air Force began airlifting French troops into Mali shortly after the French began their counter insurgency campaign.

Mali has been in turmoil since a March 22 military coup emboldened Tuareg separatists to sweep down from the north and take control of more than half of Mali. The largely secular Tuaregs nationalists were shouldered aside by hardcore Islamist militants shortly after their battlefield successes against Mali’s army. The extreme Islamists, like Ansar Dine which has linked to al Qaeda and other terror groups, introduced strict Muslim religious law in the captured territory, and meted out harsh punishments like limb amputations and floggings.

Obama notified House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, that he was sending in the troops “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.”

Ancient home in Zinder(Photo by dotlavi from Milano via wikipedia)

Ancient home in Zinder [see map]
(Photo by dotlavi from Milano via wikipedia)

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Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, Technology, Unconventional Warfare, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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