US to set up drone base in West Africa

This post was written by Reuben on January 29, 2013
Posted Under: Uncategorized

How long ago October seems. Back then François Hollande promised that  his country would provide “logistical  support” in Mali, but no French combat troops would be sent to the West African nation. Since then we have  received news of Malian civilians killed in a French air strikes, while French soldiers continue to advance on key towns.

Now, on the back of the Mali conflict, America is aggressively expanding  its military presence in North West Africa. The New York Times reports that the United States is to set up a drone base in Niger. Though the immediate justification for this move is that it will support French operations in Mali, US officials quoted in the NYT suggest that the base will be maintained on a more permanent basis. For anybody who followed the mass slaughter of civilians in Pakistan, this is, to say the least, a worrying development.

The broader picture is that sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly reemerging as a region of strategic and geopolitical competition. On the one hand many countries are drifting into China’s sphere of influence, through diplomacy and foreign investment. Meanwhile, the spread of industrialisation means that we are seeing an intensification of competition for mineral resources – reflected by rocketing prices. Finally various African economies are emerging as important fields for foreign investment. Expect the invisible hand to be followed by the iron fist.

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Reader Comments


Out of interest, what source are you using for ‘mass slaughter of civilians in Pakistan’? Can you give a broad guesstimate of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes there?

Written By Roger on January 29th, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
Owain Shave

I’m glad the French are clearly taking the Islamist threat to Africa seriously, and are prepared to help. And having the surveillance and strike capabilities of drones will be a great help, especially when dealing with the vastness of the Sahara.

I’m also keen to see more foreign investment in Africa. Investment is a mark of confidence in people, much more so than aid. Aid we expect to go and be spent, and not seen again. Investment we expect to be returned with interest, and that means you must have faith in the people you’re investing in, that they create enough wealth to not only return the initial capital, but also interest, and profit for themselves. And there’s so much potential in West Africa, I’m not surprised people are keen to invest.

Written By Owain Shave on February 4th, 2013 @ 10:51 am

To Roger, the estimates of people killed by drone strikes range to around 3,000 in Pakistan. I base that figure on the work by Jeffrey St Clair and others at CounterPunch, but there are others sources which would support this figure. The exact ratio of innocents to militants killed is a more difficult matter. The Brookings Institute estimated in 2009 that for every one terrorist killed about 10 innocent civilians are killed. In 2012 Stanford University conducted a study that estimated the killing of one terrorist also killed about 50 civilians. These facts should provoke moral outrage from you.

These strikes are not just limited to Pakistan, but have been extended to Yemen, Somalia, Mali and Niger. That’s because the battlefield is limitless in scope and anyone deemed to be an ‘associate force’ of al-Qaeda can be bombed (including American citizens). If you’re honestly concerned with at least your own freedom you should be disgusted by this campaign of barbarism. Especially as the operations of this sort can only increase the threat of terrorism.

Written By JT White on June 4th, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

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