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U.S. Building Drone Bases In Africa To Fight Terrorism

Hannah Madans |
September 21, 2011 | 12:28 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

Horn of Africa (courtesy Creative Commons)
Horn of Africa (courtesy Creative Commons)
The U.S. is building new drone bases in Africa to have greater capability to strike terrorist groups in Somalia and Yemen, according to the Washington Post. The drones will be placed in locations in Ethiopia, the Republic of Seychelles and Djibouti, The Daily Beast reports.

The Republic of Seychelles previously hosted MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. Officials previously claimed their mission was to track pirates, according to Politico. New information, however, shows that counterterrorism missions have also been conducted by the aircrafts. Cables showing this information were obtained by WikiLeaks.

U.S. officials said there were no plans to arm the Reapers when the plan was announced. WikiLeaks documents, however, claim that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones from the beginning.

During a meeting with Seychelles’ President James Michael on Sept. 18, 2009 WikiLeaks claims American diplomats said they would arm the Reapers if the need arose and that no one but Michael should be approached on the matter, the Washington Post reports.

Jean-Paul Adam, Michael’s chief deputy in 2009 allegedly told Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care,’ ” the Washington Post reports. He is now denying that there were ever talks to arm the Reapers.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam wrote in an email to the Washington Post. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

Ethiopia is a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab. The militant group controls much of Ethiopia.

“I approve of their [the drone’s] use against terrorist or anyone else, who presents a direct and credible threat to the United States,” reporter Greg Miller told the Washington Post. “With the drones, potential targets have to be scared half out their wits wondering when and where the next strike will come and whether they will be the target."

Talks to put drones in Ethiopia have been in action for more than four years.

The U.S. also flew drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Dijbouti, a small African nation.

The CIA is also building an airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the Washington Post.

In doing putting drones at bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the U.S. has created overlapping surveillance areas in a region with many al Qaeda offshoots.

The locations were chosen “based on potential target sets,” a senior U.S. military official told the Washington Post. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

The U.S. has already carried out drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.


Reach associate news editor Hannah Madans here.


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