Fox News on January 28, 2013, reported that the U.S. military is planning to set up a new drone base in Northwest Africa, senior defense officials confirmed to Fox News, in the latest effort to track the ever-expanding network of Al Qaeda affiliates and help the allied nations fighting them. Excerpts below:
The development comes as the U.S. increases its assistance to French forces fighting in Mali, where Islamist extremists who control the northern part of the country have pushed south toward the capital. A move to station U.S. drones nearby could help France with surveillance.
Officials say the U.S. is looking at neighboring Niger as the location for the base, meant for unarmed drones only. The effort is still in the planning phase and has not been formally approved by the Pentagon, the White House or Niger.
In Mali …the U.S. military is helping fly French troops and supplies in and out of the country in support of the French military…
While officials are talking about positioning a base for unarmed drones in Niger, it marks the steady expansion of the administration’s overall drone program — which is increasingly used to target and kill terrorists.
In Obama’s first term, there was a roughly 435 percent increase in the number of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, according to one tally. Nearly 290 drone strikes were documented in Pakistan, though the administration does not confirm those numbers.