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U.S. Reaches Deal With Niger to Fight Africa Extremists – Bloomberg


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U.S. Reaches Deal With Niger to Fight Africa Extremists – Bloomberg

  1. 1. U.S. Reaches Deal With Niger to Fight Africa Extremists –BloombergThe U.S. and Niger have reached anagreement allowing American military personnel to be stationedin the West African country to combat terror groups operating inthe region, according to U.S. officials.President Barack Obama’s administration doesn’t intend tosend combat troops to Niger, a White House official said. Theaccord could make it possible for the U.S. to base unmannedsurveillance aircraft there, said another U.S. official, addingthat no decision has been made to station the drones.The pact will allow deployment of U.S. personnel as well asother military assets in Niger to respond to the terror threatin neighboring Mali, a U.S. defense official said. The so-calledstatus-of-forces agreement grants immunity from local laws toU.S. personnel stationed in the country.While the contours of the U.S. military presence are stillbeing worked out, the deal is intended to increase intelligencecollection, among other purposes, the defense official said. Theofficials all asked to not be named in discussing the accord,which has not been announced.The deal with Niger, which has been in the works for morethan a year, is unconditional and not limited to a specific timeperiod, according to the U.S. defense official. The New YorkTimes reported yesterday on the accord and the possibility ofdeploying drones in the country.The pact comes after the Pentagon announced an agreement onJan. 26 to provide aerial refueling support to French troopsbattling extremists in Mali, including militants operating underthe banner of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.Together, the accords signal wider U.S. involvement inconfronting terror groups in North Africa.Missile StrikesIf approved, the base in Niger would likely be to providesurveillance for the French-led operation in Mali, the Timesreported. While initially only unarmed drones would fly out of 1/3
  2. 2. the base, the site may be used for missile strikes at some pointif the threat worsens, the newspaper said.General Carter Ham, head of the U.S. military command inAfrica, said the subject was “too operational for me to confirmor deny,” the Times reported, citing an e-mail it received fromHam. The Africa Command’s plan still needs approval from thePentagon, the White House and officials in Niger, the newspaperreported.Since the ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, whichunleashed a flow of weapons to militants in the region, theObama administration has been torn between wanting to avoidentanglements in the region while warning of the dangers ofadvancing Islamist extremism.‘Legal Basis’The U.S. has shown reluctance to provide weapons orAmerican troops to the fight in Mali, just as it has largelysidestepped the civil war in Syria. U.S. officials say thatshifting alliances among at least four rebel groups in Mali havemade it hard to get a clear picture of the conflict there.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered a brief insightearlier this month into the Obama administration’s internaldeliberations when he pointed to legal questions being raisedover France’s request for U.S. military help.“I find that every time I turn around, I face a group oflawyers,” Panetta told reporters on Jan. 16 in Rome. Theadministration’s legal counsel wanted “to be sure that theyfeel comfortable that we have the legal basis to do what we arebeing requested to do” in aiding the French, he said.Those questions were resolved and the U.S. is now providingairlift, intelligence as well as refueling French militaryplanes.French InterventionThe U.S. couldn’t directly aid Mali’s current government,which was installed through a coup, Victoria Nuland, a StateDepartment spokeswoman, said Jan. 15. She said there were norestrictions on helping allies such as France. 2/3
  3. 3. France intervened in Mali on Jan. 11 after Islamist fighters overran the town of Konna, sparking concern they might advance toward Bamako, the capital. The French Defense Ministry said that 2,500 soldiers have arrived in the landlocked West African country, which gained independence from France in 1960. African nations are deploying a force that may total as many as 3,300 troops. Yesterday, French and Malian forces encircled the historic city of Timbuktu and now hold its airport, Mali’s army spokesman, Colonel Diarran Kone, said by phone from Bamako. At least 11,000 people have been forced from their homes by the recent fighting, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. About 230,000 have been displaced since the crisis began, the agency said Jan. 22. To contact the reporters on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at; Margaret Talev in Washington at To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at Source Article from sts.html U.S. Reaches Deal With Niger to Fight Africa Extremists – Bloomberg &url= remists.html World – Google News Google News U.S. Reaches Deal With Niger to Fight Africa Extremists – Bloomberg 3/3Powered by TCPDF (