Military Drones in Africa Fight Terrorism

Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:00am

The New York Times reports from Niger that “sometimes twice daily, an unarmed American drone soars skyward from a secluded military airfield here, starting a surveillance mission of 10 hours or more to track fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda and other militants in neighboring Mali.”

“The two MQ-9 Reapers that are based here stream live video and data from other sensors to American analysts working with French commanders, who say the aerial intelligence has been critical to their success over the past four months in driving jihadists from a vast desert refuge in northern Mali.”

“The drone base, established in February and staffed by about 120 members of the Air Force, is the latest indication of the priority Africa has become for the United States at a time when it is winding down its presence in Afghanistan and President Obama has set a goal of moving from a global war on terrorism toward a more targeted effort…But the approach has limitations on a continent as large as Africa, where a shortage of resources is chronic and regional partners are weak. And the introduction of drones, even unarmed ones, runs the risk of creating the kind of backlash that has undermined American efforts in Pakistan and provoked anger in many parts of the world.”