The fight against terrorism is taking to the skies of Africa. On Friday, the U.S. military announced plans to build a $100 million temporary base in Agadez, central Niger, that will serve as a home for surveillance drones and help the nation in its efforts against extremist groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda. The drones should also help the West African nation secure its borders, which are constantly being encroached by militants and terrorist organizations.
“At the request of, and in close coordination with, the Government of Niger, United States Africa Command is establishing a temporary, expeditionary cooperative security location in Agadez, Niger,” a U.S. Africa Command spokesperson revealed in an email to Reuters. “Agadez is an ideal, central location to enable ISR collection (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) to face the security threat across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region,” she added. Apparently, the $100 million initial investment is being allocated to construction, fuel, and equipment costs.
The news makes good on a plan the U.S. first announced in 2014, when it said it was considering establishing a drone facility near an existing Agadez airbase. According to the government spokesperson, information the drones collect will be disseminated among ally nations, including Nigeria, Chad, and Mali.
As Reuters reports, the decision to open a new drone facility in Africa is a sign of the U.S.’s “deepening military ties with the fragile Sahel region,” and experts also note that the move signals ” an ever-increasing emphasis on counterterror operations in the north and west of the continent.” Agadez looks to be establishing itself as the de facto base for a number of U.S. military operations, with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions all taking place in and around the city.
The U.S. is remaining tight-lipped on the details of its new African base, with Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza telling The Intercept in an email, “Due to operational security considerations, we don’t release details on numbers of personnel or specific missions or locations, including information regarding the Nigerien military air base located in Agadez.”
That said, declassified documents show that construction is slated to be completed in 2017.