Mali Islamists’ war reveals paucity of west’s intelligence on Sahel and Sahara but Pentagon’s move could backfire, analysts warn.
The US government appears close to opening a new front in its fight against Islamist militants by planning a new base for surveillance dronesin the west African country of Niger.
American forces are already assisting a French offensive in neighbouring Mali that is aimed at recapturing the country’s northern desert territory from the hands of Islamist rebels. On Monday the US signed a military agreement with Niger that paves the way legally for US forces to operate on its soil, prompting a series of reports that the Pentagon was keen on opening a new drones base there.
That news appeared to be confirmed by Niger government sources, who said the US ambassador in Niamey, Bisa Williams, had asked Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, for permission to use surveillance drones and had been granted it.
“Niger has given the green light to accepting American surveillance drones on its soil to improve the collection of intelligence on Islamist movements,” a Niger government source told Reuters.
In Washington a diplomatic source told the Guardian that the recently signed deal, known as a “status of forces” agreement, was very broad. “There are no constraints to military-to-military co-operation within the agreement,” the source said. . .