US military resumes drone, manned aircraft counter-terrorism operations from post-coup Niger
The United States has reached an agreement with Niger’s military leaders to resume flying drones and manned aircraft out of air bases in the country more than a month after a coup halted all those activities there.
Since the July coup that removed President Mohamed Bazoum, the approximately 1,100 US military personnel deployed in the West African country have been confined to their military bases. But last week the Pentagon said some military personnel and assets had been moved from the Air Base 101 near the capital city Niamey to another one in Agadez. According to General James Hecker, the head of US Air Forces for Europe and Africa, in recent weeks some of those intelligence and surveillance missions have been able to resume due to US negotiations with the junta.
“Through the diplomatic process, we are now doing, … (now) we’re doing a large amount of missions that we were doing before,” Hecker said.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed in a statement that the US was flying missions again but said they were confined to protecting its forces. The US military has made Niger a main regional outpost for its wide-ranging patrols with armed drones and other counter-terrorism operations targeting Islamic fighters and rebel movements that have seized territory in the region, massacred civilians and fought the armed forces.
The bases are a critical part of America’s overall counterterrorism efforts in West Africa. The US has also invested years and hundreds of millions of dollars in training Nigerien forces. West Africa recorded more than 1,800 rebel attacks in the first six months of this year, which killed nearly 4,600 people.