Africa. Sahel AOO.

Discussion in 'Possible Events Impacting Deployments' started by Rover, Mar 17, 2018.

  1. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Britain prepares to send military helicopters for French campaign against Islamists in Sahel

    16 January 2018 • 7:44pm

    Britain will send military helicopters to join a French campaign against Islamist extremists in Africa as London and Paris move to deepen cross-Channel defence ties, the Prime Minister is expected to announce later this week.

    RAF Chinooks have been offered to transport French troops in discussions ahead of a Franco-British summit on the military, security, space research and immigration.

    Talks at Sandhurst will see Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron agree closer cooperation on fighting al Qaeda linked militants “at source” in north Africa.

    The French president on Tuesday also said he will demand Mrs May take more responsibility for the refugee crisis as he vowed there would be no return of the so-called "jungle" migrant camp in Calais.

    Around 4,000 French troops are waging a cross-border counter-terrorism campaign throughout the southern Sahara, with forces deployed to back local governments in Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

    Whitehall sources said Britain had offered the transport aircraft to make up for shortfalls in French helicopter numbers.

    RAF C-17 cargo planes helped transport French armoured vehicles to Mali in 2013 when the French first began their military campaign against Islamist rebels.

    Britain and France have stepped up joint exercises and exchange programmes since the Lancaster House agreement of 2010.

    Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the two were the only European nations to retain “combat cultures” and an appetite to take military action.

    He said: “Of Europe’s largest military powers, only France and UK still seem to have the culture and capability for both expeditionary operations and to use lethal force.”

    The UK decision to provide extra support to France in the Sahel is seen by UK strategists as emblematic of France’s desire to create serious ‘European’ joint military capabilities - even if these are outside the orbit of the EU itself.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/20...military-helicopters-french-campaign-against/

    CHF?
     
  2. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker Careers Adviser

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    As well as the Chinooks, CHF Merlins are certainly the most suited military transport helicopters, it'll be interesting to see if they go also.
     
  3. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Some background.....





     
  4. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Three French soldiers wounded in Mali attack
    AFP

    13 January 2018
    08:54 CET+01:00


    Three French soldiers deployed in a counter-terrorism force in Mali's restive northeast were injured, one seriously, in a suicide bomb attack, France's army said Friday.

    The convoy was attacked while travelling between the Menaka and Indelimane regions on Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the launch of France's military campaign against jihadists in the west African country.

    "A vehicle approached the convoy and exploded near a VAB (armoured vehicle)," French army spokesman Patrick Steiger told AFP.

    The seriously injured soldier was evacuated to France, while the two others were treated at the scene, he said.

    Three Malian soldiers were also injured on Thursday after being ambushed in the northern town of Hombori in an attack using "improvised explosive devices", Mali's army said in a statement.

    Also on Thursday, a policeman was abducted and a police station looted and set on fire in the northwest town of Lere, the army said in a separate statement.

    Islamic extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in the French-led military operation launched in January 2013, but large tracts of the country remain lawless.

    According to an AFP count, 18 French soldiers have been killed in Mali since the launch of Operation Serval, which has since been replaced by Operation Barkhane, a broader offensive deployed in five countries -- Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

    These countries form the so-called G5 Sahel, a French-supported group that last year launched a joint military force to combat jihadism.

    Another long haul!o_O:(
     
  5. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Liberals dropped ball on explaining Mali mission to Canadians: Diplomats

    Foreign diplomats are frustrated with how the Trudeau government announced that Canada will send military helicopters to Mali

    by The Canadian Press

    Mar 23, 2018

    OTTAWA – Foreign diplomats are frustrated about the way the Trudeau government handled this week’s announcement that Canada will send military helicopters to Mali.

    The concern isn’t that Canada has committed to the peacekeeping mission; that decision has been greeted with relief-tinged applause after years of perceived footdragging by the Liberals.

    Canada plans to send six helicopters to Mali for up to 12 months where they provide medical evacuations and transport to UN troops and supplies as needed.

    But the diplomats feel the government failed to explain why the mission is needed — or that the Canadians will be relatively safe compared with the thousands of other peacekeepers working across the country.

    Their fear is that the government has allowed incorrect information to spread, which threatens to undermine Canadian public support for what they say is a critical mission.

    The diplomats say the Canadians will live with little risk of attack in a well-defended base manned by Belgian and Dutch guards and that the helicopters are urgently needed to ensure the mission’s success.

    The Opposition Conservatives have demanded a debate on the mission, many details of which, including when the helicopters will be deployed and how many troops will go with them, remain up in the air.
     
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  6. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Para 5 from The Canadian Press excerpt posted by @Rover :

    "Their fear is that the government has allowed incorrect information to spread, which threatens to undermine Canadian public support for what they say is a critical mission."

    The domestic and international politics associated with this are interesting given Canada's social links with France.

    One might argue that there is a lack of public awareness and debate in the UK about our own intervention, the associated risks, and potential longer term consequences. There is no public support here because—aside from forum users here—few are even aware of it. :confused:

    With fewer current distractions—BREXIT, Russia, etc.—than we have here in the UK the electorate of Canada might be less willing to 'sleepwalk' into another foreign adventure.
     
  7. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Al-Qaeda Affiliate Claims Mortar Attack on UN Forces in Mali

    By
    Oudaa Marouf

    ‎28‎ ‎March‎ ‎2018‎ ‎12‎:‎29

    Al-Qaeda-linked militants claimed responsibility for a mortar attack on a United Nations camp in northern Mali that wounded five French soldiers last week.

    The claim by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims, or JNIM, was reported Wednesday by al-Akhbar, a news agency in neighboring Mauritania. The UN camp in Kidal was targeted on March 22, ahead of a visit to the region by Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga.

    Islamist fighters in Mali, who seized swathes of territory after the government collapsed in 2012 only to be pushed back by a French military intervention, are again stepping up activities in West Africa’s Sahel region. JNIM previously took responsibility for a March 2 attack on army headquarters and the French embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital.
     
  8. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Two peacekeepers dead, 10 wounded in Mali attack: UN

    AFP•April 06, 2018

    AFP) - Two UN peacekeepers were killed and 10 others wounded on Thursday night during an attack on their camp in northeastern Mali, the UN's mission there said in a statement.

    "At 6.45pm (1845 GMT) the peacekeepers came under mortar fire," the mission, known by its acronym MINUSMA, said in the statement.

    "According to an initial assessment, two peacekeepers were killed and 10 were wounded," it added, saying the camp that was attacked was in Aguelhok.

    Mali is one of the most dangerous UN missions, with more than 150 peacekeepers killed since 2013.

    MINUSMA has a 12,500-strong force in the country, backed by a further 4,000 French troops who are on an anti-jihadist mission.

    Attacks on the mission are commonplace. Last month four UN peacekeepers were killed when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.

    Six Malian soldiers were killed a week earlier in another mine attack on their convoy.

    Once a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa, Mali has been undermined by a coup, civil war and Islamist terrorism.

    Extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of Mali's desert north in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

    In June 2015, Mali's government signed a peace agreement with some armed groups, but the jihadists remain active, and large tracts of the country are lawless.
     
  9. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Mali militants attack bases disguised as UN peacekeepers.


    • A rocket and car bomb attack on French and UN soldiers in Mali has left one person dead and many others injured.

      Militants disguised as UN peacekeepers - in distinctive blue helmets and driving a vehicle marked with the UN logo - struck two bases near the airport in Timbuktu.

      The UN mission confirmed one of its peacekeepers had been killed.

      More than a dozen others, including many French soldiers, were wounded, according to the government.

      In a statement, the security ministry said the attack involved dozens of rockets fired by militants "wearing blue helmets". Two vehicles were also packed with explosives.

      One of the vehicles exploded, the ministry said, while the other, bearing the UN symbol, was stopped.

      The ministry said that while five people were seriously injured, the fighting had ended and the situation was under control.

      Attacks against UN peacekeepers and government forces are common in Mali, a former French colony which also has a French military presence.

      But one foreign security source told the AFP news agency the scale of the most recent assault was "unprecedented" in Timbuktu.

      "We've never seen an attack like this," a separate official from the Timbuktu governorate said.

      The UN mission has been deployed in Mali since a 2013 Tuareg separatist uprising. It has more than 11,000 troops and 1,741 police, and is considered one of the UN's most dangerous missions.

      Before Saturday's rocket and car bomb attack, 162 UN personnel had been killed in the five years since the mission began.

      Seven peacekeepers have been killed this year.


      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43772363
     
  10. DeathBySexy

    DeathBySexy New Member

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    After reading what a great job the French and UN have done in the Central African Republic I wouldn't be surprised if those were actual UN troops and not militants disguised as UN troops.

    MY "EXPERT" OPINION; Sounds like a bit of a shambles, but then the French haven't come out very well in warfare historically... nor the UN.
     
  11. dodgyknees

    dodgyknees Member

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    Easy to have a pop at another country's forces. The French have done a good job in Mali under very difficult circumstances.
     
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  12. DeathBySexy

    DeathBySexy New Member

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    Faux pas! You're right, I doubt without them that the Malawian army would have stood against the Touareg rebels or the Islamists with much success. The French are notoriously tough and my comment did not reflect what respect I do have for them. We'll see if the UN works as a stabilising force in the region after the French leave.
     
  13. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Looks like the US will be more involved!


    US warns of growing African terror threat

    Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT) April 19, 2018


    Washington (CNN)ISIS and al Qaeda represent major threats and are growing in strength in West Africa according to the commander of US special operations in Africa, Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks.

    "The al Qaeda and ISIS inspired threats in Lake Chad Basin and here in the Sahel are very real and continue to grow in strength," Hicks told CNN, referring to two regions in western Africa.

    Hicks was speaking via phone from Niger where he was attending Flintlock 18, a major military exercise involving 1,900 elite special operations and counterterrorism troops from 21 African and western countries.

    "Both ISIS and al Qaeda franchises here should be taken seriously, they both have either carried out or attempted attacks on western interests in Africa, and they both have aspirations to continue attacks on western interests here, and then to attack the west beyond here," Hicks said.

    upload_2018-4-20_10-8-36.jpg

    NIAMEY, Niger -- US Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks, commander, Special Operations Command Africa, is interviewed by local media after the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2018 in Niamey, Niger, April 11, 2018.


    But while he labeled both groups threats, Hicks said that al Qaeda represented the bigger concern due to its ability to plan for the long term.

    Read More

    "What concerns me most specifically is al Qaeda, because I believe that al Qaeda-associated threats here, so al Shabaab and JNIM and the other offshoots of formerly known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are taking direction from al Qaeda core and are sort of walking through the al Qaeda playbook to develop clandestine infrastructure, and I think they have a disciplined, patient approach to building a base that will allow them to form a caliphate when the time is right," Hicks said referring to the terror group's Somalia, Mali and North Africa based affiliates.

    The biggest al Qaeda affiliate is al Shabaab in Somalia where the terror group commands some 4,000-6,000 active fighters, according to the US military, making it one of al Qaeda's largest affiliates. US Navy Seals advise local Somali security forces battling al Shabaab while the Trump administration has also conducted dozens of targeted airstrikes against the group.

    JNIM, the Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate, has approximately 800 fighters. France has thousands of troops in Mali, helping local forces combat JNIM and other extremist groups.


    Officials are also concerned about ISIS affiliates in Libya, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, and Somalia, particularly the prospect of foreign fighters leaving Iraq and Syria and joining these newer affiliates.

    The two groups in the Lake Chad Basin, which includes Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad include Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa. The US military believes Boko Haram fields approximately 1,500 and ISIS West Africa approximately 3,500.

    "As the physical caliphate collapses, where those fighters go is a question. There are already sub-pockets again both in the Sahel, in Libya, in Lake Chad Basin and a small one in Somalia where those ISIS fighters could find themselves." US Air Force Col. Craig Miller, an officer in Special Operations Command Africa, told CNN.

    "The threat is increasing at different rates and different volumes depending on where you are at in the theater in Africa," a US military official familiar with US operations in Africa told CNN.

    Hicks said that exercises like Flintlock highlight the strategy of working "by, with and through" local African partners as they seek to combat both terror organizations.

    However, even this supporting role carries risk something underscored in October when four US soldiers were killed in an ambush by some 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters while advising Nigerien troops near the Niger-Mali border. On Thursday the Pentagon confirmed that the investigation into the incident by US Africa Command has been completed and the results are expected to be made public in the near future.


    The group that was believed responsible for the ambush, ISIS in the Greater Sahara, is thought to have up to 300 active fighters, operating in the ungoverned border area between Mali and Niger, an area known as the Sahel.

    Hicks acknowledged the risks involved, saying "missions here are not without risk, I want to be very clear about that" but also added: "we try to mitigate risk where we can."

    Following another firefight between a different group of ISIS-linked fighters, ISIS West Africa, and a joint US-Nigerien force in December in a different part of the country, Hicks issued a letter to the troops under his command reminding them that the US military was in a supporting role.

    "My intent there was to remind -- a lot of my force is coming out of Afghanistan, and to remind them that we are not in Afghanistan. We have multiple sovereign nations here, and this is going to be a long, deliberate effort to develop their capability, and that our focus is really on working by, with and through our African and western partners," Hicks said.

    Hicks said that resource constraints also factored into his decision to remind his troops of their supporting role.

    "I cautioned my force to back away from pushing it too hard is because the resource rich environment that we enjoyed in Iraq and Afghanistan exists virtually nowhere in Africa," Hicks said, referring to the limited resources US troops in Africa enjoy compared to operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. There are only about 800 US troops in Niger, a country roughly two-times the size of Texas.

    "We're mindful of the limits of our resources," Hicks said, saying that those constraints factored into operational planning with regards to things like air support for operations.

    Hicks said that he has shifted the focus of US special operations forces in Africa, from advising small local units on tactical patrols toward more strategic-level advising, something he said would allow for a "higher-level return on investment" given the relatively small number of troops in Africa while also having "the benefit of reducing our risk somewhat."

    "We are not walking away from our African partners. In fact, because their capability has improved to the level it has, they're capable of conducting lots of these tactical operations on their own," Hicks said while adding that some tactical level advising out in the field would continue.

    "We're going to help them to degrade the enemies that we share in common. They are fighting America's enemies. These are sworn enemies of the United States, that's why we're here. We can fight them here or we can fight them somewhere else at a much higher cost," Hicks said.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/19/politics/africa-isis-al-qaeda-threat/index.html
     

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  14. DeathBySexy

    DeathBySexy New Member

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    I wonder if we'll get an invite to the party. I thought a few years back that Africa would be the one to watch for the next skirmish (if I dare be so flippant). Interesting developments from the US out there. I can't wait to get more news on it!
     
  15. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    If it starts to go badly wrong it could happen. A committment has already been floated. See Rover's post #1 above.

    As alluded to by @dodgyknees France has got stuck in. But France and Belgium have stronger historical, colonial connections with sub-Saharan Africa and have been fighting 'small wars' there for many years.
     
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  16. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    A Shadowy War’s Newest Front: A Drone Base Rising From Saharan Dust

    By ERIC SCHMITTAPRIL 22, 2018

    AIR BASE 201, Niger — Rising from a barren stretch of African scrubland, a half-finished drone base represents the newest front line in America’s global shadow war.

    At its center, hundreds of Air Force personnel are feverishly working to complete a $110 million airfield that, when finished in the coming months, will be used to stalk or strike extremists deep into West and North Africa, a region where most Americans have no idea the country is fighting.

    Near the nascent runway, Army Green Berets are training Nigerien forces to carry out counterterrorism raids or fend off an enemy ambush — like the one that killed four American soldiers near the Mali border last fall.

    Taken together, these parallel missions reflect a largely undeclared American military buildup outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, often with murky authorities and little public attention, unfolding in remote places like Yemen, Somalia and, increasingly, West Africa.

    In Niger alone, the Pentagon in the past few years has doubled the number of United States troops, to about 800 — not to conduct unilateral combat missions, but to battle an increasingly dangerous Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and even loosely associated extremist groups with proxy forces and drone strikes. The military’s missions in Niger are expected to come under scrutiny in a long-awaited Defense Department investigation into the deadly Oct. 4 ambush that is nearing release.

    “The base, and the more frequent flights that its opening will allow, will give us far more situational awareness and intelligence on a region that has been a hub of illicit and extremist activity,” said P.W. Singer, a strategist at New America in Washington who has written extensively about drones. “But it will also further involve us in yet more operations and fights that few Americans are even aware our military is in.”

    Questions about whether the American military, under the Trump administration, is seeking to obscure the expanding scope of operations in Africa surfaced last month when it was revealed that the United States had carried out four airstrikes in Libya between September and January that the military’s Africa Command had failed to disclose at the time.

    Soon after, the military acknowledged for the first time that Green Berets working with Nigerien forces had killed 11 Islamic State militants in a multiday firefight in December. No American or Nigerien forces were harmed in the December gun battle.

    But the combat — along with at least 10 other previously unreported attacks on American troops in West Africa between 2015 and 2017 — underscored the fact that the deadly ambush in Niger was not an isolated episode. Nigerien forces and their American advisers are preparing other major operations to clear out militants, military officials say.

    “It’s essential that the American public is aware of, engaged in, and decides whether or not to support American military operations in countries around the world, including Niger,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, who visited Niger with four other senators this month.

    Six months after the fatal attack, which took place outside the village of Tongo Tongo near the Mali border, the Trump administration stands at a critical crossroad in the military’s global counterterrorism campaign.

    One path would push ahead with President Trump’s campaign vow to defeat the Islamic State and other violent extremist organizations, not just in Iraq and Syria, but worldwide. The other would be to pull out and leave more of the fighting to allies, as Mr. Trump said he wants to do in Syria, possibly ceding hard-fought ground to militants.

    During a counterterrorism exercise this past week in north-central Niger that drew nearly 2,000 military personnel from 20 African and Western countries, many officers voiced concerns that America’s commitment in West Africa could fall victim to the latter impulse.

    “It’s important to still have support from the U.S. to help train my men, to help with our shortfalls,” said Col. Maj. Moussa Salaou Barmou, commander of Niger’s 2,000 Special Operations forces, who trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and the National Defense University in Washington.

    In an interview on the sidelines of the exercise, Maj. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, the head of American Special Operations forces in Africa, put it this way: “This is an insurance policy that’s very inexpensive, and I think we need to keep paying into it.”

    Building a new base in this remote, landlocked country nearly twice the size of Texas marks the latest chapter in the military’s contentious history of drone operations around the world.

    It comes as American drone strikes are on the rise again, after tapering off somewhat in places like Pakistan. The number of American strikes against Islamist militants last year tripled in Yemen and doubled in Somalia from the figure a year before.

    Last month, an armed drone flown from a second base in Niger killed a Qaeda leader in southern Libya for the first time, signaling a possible expansion of strikes there.

    Where American and Nigerien officials see enhanced security in drone operations — for surveillance, strikes or protecting Special Forces patrols — others fear a potentially destabilizing impact that could hand valuable recruiting propaganda to an array of groups aligned with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and that could increase the militants’ menace.

    “Eliminating jihadi military leaders through drone operations could temporarily disorganize insurgent groups,” said Jean-Hervé Jezequel, deputy director of the International Crisis Group’s West Africa project in Dakar, Senegal. “But eventually the void could also lead to the rise of new and younger leaders who are likely to engage into more violent and spectacular operations to assert their leadership.”

    A rare visit this month to Air Base 201, the largest construction project that Air Force engineers have ever undertaken alone, revealed several challenges.

    Commanders grapple with swirling dust storms, scorching temperatures and lengthy spare-part deliveries to fix broken equipment. All have conspired to put the project more than a year behind schedule and $22 million over its original budget.



    Construction of a hangar on the new American drone base last week in Agadez, Niger. Credit Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

    American officials have sought to allay fears of local residents that the base, just two miles outside the city of Agadez, could be a target for terrorist attacks — not a guardian against them. Rumors circulated that the dozens of dump trucks rumbling in and out of the heavily defended front gates each day were secretly stealing valuable uranium, for which the region is renowned.

    “We had to overcome some suspicion and distrust,” said Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh, commander of the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron, the senior officer here.

    For centuries, Agadez has been an important way-stop for smugglers, migrants and camel caravans traversing the Sahara. The city of 125,000 people is more than 450 miles from Tongo Tongo, where the American soldiers and Nigerien troops were attacked last fall, but militants have also targeted this region in recent years.



    Outside the Agadez mosque. American officials have sought to allay fears of local residents that the new drone base, just two miles outside Agadez, could be a target for terrorist attacks. Credit Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

    In May 2013, Islamist militants staged coordinated attacks, using suicide car bombs to strike a Nigerien military compound in Agadez and a French-operated uranium company in the nearby town of Arlit. Two groups claimed credit for the bombings, which Nigerien authorities said killed at least 24 soldiers and one civilian, as well as 11 militants.

    President Barack Obama ordered the first 100 American troops to Niger in February 2013 to help set up unarmed surveillance drone operations in Niamey, Niger’s capital, to support a French-led operation combating Qaeda and affiliated fighters in neighboring Mali.

    Even as those troops deployed, military officials said then that they ultimately wanted to move the drone operations to outside Agadez, closer to Saharan smuggling routes that Islamist militants use to transport arms and fighters from Libya to northern Mali. Runway construction broke ground in the summer of 2016.

    Niger’s government approved Air Base 201 in 2014. Last November, a month after the deadly ambush, the government of Niger gave the Defense Department permission to fly armed drones out of Niamey, a major expansion of the American military’s firepower in Africa. American and Nigerien officers here refused to discuss armed operations. But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the military in January started flying armed missions from Niamey, 500 miles southwest of the base, including the deadly strike in southern Libya last month.



    APRIL 18, 2018

    By The New York Times

    MQ-9 Reaper drones, made by General Atomics, will be moved to Air Base 201 once its runway and hangars are completed by early next year, as will several hundred American troops. Roughly half of the 800 American forces in Niger — the second-largest American troop presence in Africa, second only to the 4,000 military personnel at a permanent base in Djibouti — work here now.



    Air Base 101 in Niamey, Niger’s capital, 500 miles southwest of the drone base being constructed outside Agadez. Credit Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

    Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a website run by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that tracks military strikes against militant groups, said that moving the drone operations to Agadez had two main advantages.

    First, he said, the base will be more centrally located to conduct operations throughout the Sahel, a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by a growing wave of terrorism and armed conflict.

    Second, Agadez is more isolated than Niamey. That will help keep the operations more low-key and away from prying eyes.

    “The Agadez base has the potential to become the most active counterterrorism hub in Africa,” Mr. Roggio said.

    The Niger deployment is only the second time that armed drones have been stationed and used in Africa.

    Drones now based in Djibouti are used in Yemen and Somalia, where there were about 30 strikes last year against Shabab and Islamic State targets — twice the number in 2016. Drones used against targets in Libya have flown from Sicily, but with a range of about 1,100 miles, the Reapers could not reach militant hide-outs in southern Libya.

    The United States also flies unarmed surveillance drones from bases in Tunisia and Cameroon.

    At Air Base 201, building a runway more than 6,800 feet long and 150 feet wide poses severe logistical hurdles. Rock from local quarries is crushed into gravel for the runway’s underlying support. But the rock crushers have broken down, forcing workers at least once to use couriers to hand-deliver spare parts from Paris to avoid weekslong shipping delays.

    “There’s no Home Depot downtown here,” said Colonel Harbaugh, 40, an Afghanistan war veteran from Pittsburgh.

    Runway construction also requires choreographed precision.

    Dump trucks disgorge piles of wet gravel. A giant grader equipped with a GPS-controlled blade spreads the rock to an exact depth. Steamrollers pace back and forth behind the grader to compact the gravel. To settle properly, the moistened rocks must not dry too quickly, so much of this work is done at night to avoid daytime temperatures that this past week soared to 107 degrees.



    Off-duty airmen on the Air Base 201 compound. Much of the construction is done at night to avoid daytime temperatures that routinely soar above 100 degrees. Credit Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

    Later this summer, workers will lay five inches of asphalt atop the rock bed. In all, commanders say they will pave some 39 acres of airfield. While built mainly for the Reaper drones, the runway and adjoining taxiways and ramps must be able to handle much heavier C-17 cargo planes. Three huge hangars capped in a tan fabric covering sprout-like giant mushrooms, visible from miles away. Each can fit one or more drones.

    Eventually, the plan is to turn Air Base 201 completely over to the Nigerien military. American and Nigerien security forces now jointly patrol the 2,200-acre site. The base cafeteria employs 80 local workers, and the Americans have spent tens of millions of dollars on local rock, concrete, steel, wood and other supplies. Civic leaders and local journalists were recently invited to tour the base.

    A four-man civil affairs team led by Capt. Andrew Dacey, a former Army infantry platoon leader in Iraq, has worked closely with civic, religious and educational leaders in Agadez to help address the high unemployment and ill-equipped schools — shortcomings that Islamist extremists can exploit.

    The team is helping local schools start a metal and wood craftsman apprenticeship that teaches teenage students new skills and supplies classrooms with refurbished desks.

    “The base has been very helpful for our security and our economy,” said Mahaman Ali, an inspector for primary schools in the area, pointing to piles of broken desks that will be repaired.

    And yet doubts still linger about the base’s enduring legacy.

    “The deployment of armed drones is not going to make a strategic difference,” said E.J. Hogendoorn, the International Crisis Group’s deputy Africa program director in Washington, “and may even increase local hostility to the U.S. and the central government in distant Niamey.”

    Open link for video.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/22/us/politics/drone-base-niger.html
     
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