US Drone Base in Niger Now Operational, Armed Flights Being Carried Out

AFRICOM says flights started this week, refuses to say which sort of drones

US African Command (AFRICOM) announced on Friday that the controversial Nigerien Air Base 201, meant to house US surveillance and combat drones, is now open and operational, and flights began earlier this week.

After an ambush by ISIS against a joint US-Nigerien military patrol, the US began pushing Niger for permission to fly not just surveillance drones, but also armed drones. In the panic after the attack, they got permission, starting the long road to constructing this large base.

And while AFRICOM is championing this as expanding US interests in the region, they are refusing to provide any indication what sort of US drones will be based out of the site, saying there are “security concerns” about that.

A large and expensive project, this is expected to mean a substantial increase in US drone activity across western Africa, and commit the US to a long-term presence in Niger.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.