The Washington Post reported in 2014 that the U.S. military wanted to increase reconnaissance flights over Libya assisted by a drone base in Agadez; this would make it easier to reach the southern Libya desert, where security analysts believed that many itinerant Islamist fighters regrouped after being expelled from Mali.
North-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were relatively free of terror threats in 2001
Since 9/11 however, the United States has poured vast military funding into the region and stability and security has deteriorated. In 2002, the State Department launched a counterterrorism program — known as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, which later became the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) — to assist the militaries of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger; between 2009 and 2013 the U.S. allocated $288 million in TSCTP funding, according to a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office.
- In 2010 a military junta overthrew Niger’s president as he attempted to extend his rule.
- All the original members of the Pan-Sahel Initiative have fallen victim to military uprisings.
- Chad saw attempted coups in 2006 and 2013,
- Members of Mauritania’s military overthrew the government in 2005 and again in 2008,
- A U.S.-trained military officer toppled the democratically elected president of Mali in 2012.
- There are now regular attacks from Boko Haram, an Islamist sect from Nigeria that is said to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State
The US has now begun to build the $100 million drone base in Niger
American military documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the US has begun to build the $100 million drone base in Niger, which will become the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against insurgent groups.
According to the documents, Niger was the “only country in NW Africa willing to allow basing of MQ-9s,” the larger, newer cousins of the Predator drone. The documents went on to note that the “President expressed willingness to support armed RPAs (Ed: Remotely Piloted Aircraft).”
Nigeria News reports that there is concern about the effect of the drone strikes in the north especially the safety of local people
Prof. Femi Adegbulu who is a member of the American Society of Industrial Security said the strike can result in heavy collateral damage.
“There are two sets of drones, one for surveillance and the other for attacks. A reconnaissance drone is used for intelligence gathering, while the other kind of drone is used for attacks. There is no 100 per cent accuracy in warfare. “You lose lives, money, time, and resources. The possibility of collateral damage cannot be ruled out, especially since Boko Haram terrorists are known to use humans as shields when attacked.”
Mike Ejiofor who is a former director of the Department of State Services also expressed concern about the drone attacks which he said might lead to loss of innocent lives. He said: “I am worried that the US military will be making such efforts to launch attacks against Boko Haram from outside Nigeria. If the US did not get the nod from the Federal Government to establish its drone base in the country, how could the US military launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger Republic?”
The U.S. military activity in Niger is not isolated – the drone project is one of a number of recent American military initiatives in this nation
“There’s a trend toward greater engagement and a more permanent presence in West Africa — the Maghreb and the Sahel,” noted Adam Moore of the department of geography at the University of California in Los Angeles and the co-author of an academic study of the U.S. military’s presence in Africa.
“You lose lives, money, time, and resources” – the only beneficiaries: makers of bodybags, shrouds, the arms manufacturing and trading corporations and beholden politicians.