US drones to be deployed in Niger


Major milestone in pattern of aggressive US activity in Africa

Drones increasingly imperialist weapon of choice
On Feb. 22, President Obama outlined the contours of the previously announced drone base in the African nation of Niger in a letter to Congress. One hundred U.S. troops will be deployed under the aegis of “providing support for intelligence collection.” The letter was careful to not explicitly acknowledge this expansion of the deadly drone program, which the administration prefers to keep as deeply in the shadows as possible.
However, unnamed Pentagon officials admitted to the Washington Post that drones would in fact be deployed in the Niger operation. While the unnamed Pentagon official claimed the drones would be used purely for surveillance, other administration sources confirmed that the use of drones for an offensive had “not been ruled out.” In view of the murderous record of the drone program, it is hard to believe that drone strikes won’t be coming to West Africa soon.
This is a further milestone in a pattern of aggressive U.S. imperialist activity on the African continent. In Niger, this is a major expansion of a few months’ old surveillance mission of lesser capability operated by mercenaries, or as the Post calls them, “military contractors.” The expansion in Niger, to be run out of the capital of Niamey before moving to more remote areas, has a special focus on providing intelligence to the French-led intervention force in Mali. So whatever truth is in the claims of a purely “intelligence gathering” mission, U.S. drones will be a crucial part of deadly operations.

The Niger operation must be seen in the broader context of the increasing U.S. military presence in Africa.

The broader context
The Niger operation must be seen in the broader context of the increasing U.S. military presence in Africa. Africom, the U.S. military command overseeing Africa, has also recently organized a 4,000-person military unit that will be deploying missions in up to 35 African countries. According to the Army’s own website, these forces are participating in both “combined arms” and “wider-area security” training as they join Africom. In other words, they are training for wars of all types, which presumably have not been ruled out by the Obama administration.
During his recent confirmation hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of increasing U.S. influence on the African continent to counter China, saying: “China is all over Africa. … [I]f we can organize ourselves in this sector we can win. … I mean win in terms of business contracts, business opportunities, jobs for Americans, ability to export.”
It is undeniable that the African continent is moving increasingly into the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism, where the new drone base, closer military relationships with African countries, and well-trained troops strung across the continent join a killer drone program and a CIA secret prison in Somalia, and a major special operations base in Djibouti. This vastly expanded military program comes on top of the stated goals of the administration to increase U.S. hegemony over African goods and markets.
Clearly, such ambitious plans are predicated on the belief by the American ruling elites that there will be no significant opposition to their policies of enriching themselves on the backs of others. However, there is opposition to the imperialist agenda both on the continent and in the United States. On April 13, anti-war, anti-imperialist, African solidarity and African immigrant organizations, among others, will converge on the White House in Washington, D.C., to oppose the expansion of drone-led imperialism in Africa and everywhere. The bold moves by the warmongers in the White House, Pentagon and Langley require an equally bold response. Progressive-minded people in the U.S. should do all they can to support the April 13 demonstration and deliver a powerful message of defiance.

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