By Steven E. White
The Government of Nigeria has given the United States’ Defence Department permission to fly armed drones out of the Niamey Air Base, in the capital of Niger. Pentagon officials hope to start these flights by the end of next week, to combat terrorist groups in a large area from Mali, Africa, to Chad, and even Libya.
There are 800 troops deployed at the Niamey Air Base, but about 500 of them will be transferred to the Agadez Air Base. The drones, which are currently stationed without arms in Niamey, will be moved to Agadez, after a short, undisclosed amount of time. More American troops will be deployed at Agadez to pilot the drones and carry out military operations.
For two years the Pentagon has sought to put precision guided missiles and bombs on a squadron of reapers, hoping to fly them out of Niamey. In a memorandum of agreement, the African Military is allowed to initially pilot the drones until they are eventually moved to Agadez, where U.S. troops will be waiting to take control.
“The government of Niger and the U.S. stand firm in working together to prevent terrorist organizations using the region as a safe haven.” Maj. Audricia M. Harris, a spokeswoman of the Defence Department, stated. With the newly armed drones, American forces will be able to target groups affiliated with Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State, along with others.
“This operation supports the long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Niger, as well as the ongoing effort to counter violent extremism throughout the region,” The Defence Department stated in response to an inquiry from the New York Times. Even though the Government of Nigeria finally allowed the use of military drones, Donald C. Bolduc stated, “This was long overdue.” The retired army brigadier general, who was the top American Special Operations Commander in Africa, continued with, “This will allow us to be more effective against the threat there.”
Though the United States has been able to reach targets in Yemeni, Somali, and Libya, through their bases in Southern Italy, their reach in West Africa has been quite limited. Donald Bolduc has advocated for the use of drones over the last four years, but cautions that they won’t be enough. They must be coupled with a, “Whole of society approach.” To defeat the terrorist organizations like the Islamic state in West Africa.