The Northern African nation of Niger is being considered as the next home of a Defense Department base for unmanned aircraft so the aircraft could operate over Mali, according to a POLITICO article.
The base would be placed somewhere along Niger’s border with Mali and is expected to house unarmed drones tasked with Al Qaeda surveillance missions but could support armed drones if the need arises.
A defense official told the New York Times the agency is still exploring options but they are already supporting the French by refueling aircraft and transporting equipment.
The African Command lead General Carter Ham has established a positive relationship with Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou, who said he would like to build “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.”
“What’s happening in northern Mali is a big concern for us, because what’s happening in northern Mali can also happen to us,” the president said.
Currently, the U.S. only has one official base in Africa that is located in Djibouti, but conducts UAV missions from a number of small satellite bases spread throughout the continent.
A base in Niger would not only make missions to Mali easier, but put American drones in closer reach to Libya, Algeria and Egypt.