Just when you thought you'd forgotten all about that recently revealed "secret" US drone base in Saudi Arabia, there's this: President Obama just revealed yet another far-flung desert drone base, this one in Niger.
Well, it wasn't that straightforward. Obama did not "explicitly reveal the drone base" in a letter to Congress, the Washington Post reports. Instead he said that some 100 military personnel are now posted up in Niger to "provide support for intelligence collection" for a France military operation in neighboring Mali. That that's apparently all code for "our boys will be flying spy planes" comes from a--wait for it--unnamed administration official who tells the Post that nearly all the personnel are with the Air Force.
The drone ops, the official added, are "imminent," and will initially be based in the capital city of Niamey. Eventually the plan is to move everything north to the town of Agadez, closer to the action in Mali. For all the detached, out-of-harm's way characteristics of America's shadow wars abroad, sniffing out suspected bad dudes if still very much about proximity.
"That’s [Agadez] a better location for the mission," the official told the Post, "but it’s not feasible at this point." Agadez, being far more remote than Niamey, is still fraught “with logistical challenges.”
The big question, of course, is whether these spy missions will eventually be optimized to kill. The anonymous official contends that for now the joint US-France missions will use unarmed Predators, adding that "this is purely an intelligence gathering mission." But then there's those other unnamed administration officials who told the Post that Obama hasn't yet axed the possibility of the drones being rigged up with explosives in the future.
Either way, don't think al-Qaeda and its militant affiliates won't be ready, what with their mud-smeared cars and radio jammers and other cloaking tactics laid out in that 22-point guidebook to dodging drones.
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