MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

A Massive U.S. Drone Base Could Destabilize Niger — and May Even Be Illegal Under Its Constitution

Posted by M. C. Fox on February 21, 2018

The Armed Services committee didn’t know, Niger government officials didn’t know. What you don’t know will hurt you.

Africa will be so much safer now that the US is there.

https://theintercept.com/2018/02/18/niger-air-base-201-africom-drones/

“I was surprised to learn that Americans had died in the Tongo Tongo attack,” Soumana Sanda, the leader of an opposition party in the Nigerien Parliament and taekwondo champion, told me in an interview in his pristine and sparsely decorated office in Niamey, the country’s quiet capital on the banks of the Niger River. “That was the moment I found out, as a Nigerien, as a member of parliament, as a representative of the people, that there is indeed (an American) base with ground operations.”

In fact, U.S. Special Operations forces have been in Niger since at least 2013 and are stationed around the country on forward operating bases with elite Nigerien soldiers. What happened in Tongo Tongo is just a taste of the potential friction and instability to come, because the pièce de resistance of American military engagement in Niger is a $110 million drone base the U.S. is building about 450 miles northeast of Niamey in Agadez, a city that for centuries has served as a trade hub on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, not far from Mali, Algeria, Libya and Chad. In January, I hopped aboard an aging plane that followed a roundabout route to one of America’s largest-ever military investments in Africa, its latest battleground in an opaque, expensive, and counterintuitive war on the continent…

The base is a mystery for a reason. AFRICOM, which is the division of the Department of Defense that oversees U.S. military operations in Africa, has only allowed access to one news outlet so far that I know of, CNN, and denied me entry for this reporting trip. The public affairs office of the U.S. Embassy in Niger responded to repeated requests for an interview by saying they were processing the request and then eventually refused to answer my questions, explaining they were understaffed due to the three-day government shutdown in late January.

AFRICOM is notoriously restrictive in its access to reporters. A journalist for The Intercept was not allowed to visit another drone base in Cameroon, and people there were also cautious about discussing or criticizing it. This underlines a transnational fact: It’s not clear that American drones in Africa have made things safer. They are often more a source of fear than anything else…

Be seeing you

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I am not a number. I am a free man!-Number 6

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