Nick Turse hat im April 2017 auf Tomdispatch einen Bericht über das zunehmende Engagement von AFRICOM  publiziert. Die auf der Karte blau eingezeichneten „Contingency Locations“ – eher provisorische Militärcamps – zogen sich schon 2014 wie ein blaues Band quer durch Afrika. Im Jahr 2018 wurde die Airbase 201 in Agadez, nur 2 Meilen von der Stadt entfernt, mit einem Aufwand von mehr als 100 Millionen Dollar zum zentralen Start- und Landeplatz für bewaffnete und unbewaffnete Drohnen ausgebaut.

Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, a website run by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that tracks military strikes against militant groups, said that moving the drone operations to Agadez had two main advantages.

First, he said, the base will be more centrally located to conduct operations throughout the Sahel, a vast area on the southern flank of the Sahara that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by a growing wave of terrorism and armed conflict.

Second, Agadez is more isolated than Niamey. That will help keep the operations more low-key and away from prying eyes.

“The Agadez base has the potential to become the most active counterterrorism hub in Africa,” Mr. Roggio said.

The Niger deployment is only the second time that armed drones have been stationed and used in Africa.

Drones now based in Djibouti are used in Yemen and Somalia, where there were about 30 strikes last year against Shabab and Islamic State targets — twice the number in 2016. Drones used against targets in Libya have flown from Sicily, but with a range of about 1,100 miles, the Reapers could not reach militant hide-outs in southern Libya.

The United States also flies unarmed surveillance drones from bases in Tunisia and Cameroon.

NYT | 22.04.2018

Am 24.12.2019 meldet die NYT, dass der US-Verteidigungsminister Esper über einen weitgehenden oder gar totalen Rückzug der US-Truppen aus Westafrika nachdenke. Ein solcher Rückzug würde, so halten Militärs dagegen, den strategischen Interessen Russlands und Chinas die Tore öffnen. Vor allem aber würde ein solcher Rückzug die EU-Truppen unter Führung Frankreichs auf sich selbst gestellt zurücklassen. Frankreich hat vor wenigen Tagen erstmals eine eigene bewaffnete Drohne eingesetzt, ist aber hinsichtlich Luftaufklärung und Logistik nahezu völlig von US-amerikanischer Unterstützung abhängig. Die nigrische Armee, deren Spezialeinheiten von US-Kräften ausgebildet wurden und deren Operationen wiederholt von Niamey und Agadez aus Luftunterstützung durch US-Truppen erhielten, werden ohne diese Unterstützung kaum mehr operationsfähig sein.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.” […]

The details of planning for troop reductions in West Africa have been closely held in the Pentagon, and Congress has not been consulted, officials said. Mr. Esper’s decision could also affect other agencies: The military’s ability to provide swift backup for security at diplomatic and intelligence compounds in troubled parts of the world has been a heightened concern since the 2012 attack on outposts at Benghazi, Libya.

The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. […]

Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard. […]

But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there. “ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.
He also created a special task force to focus specifically on deteriorating security and other problems in the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by growing waves of terrorism and armed conflict.

Mr. Esper’s initiative, though, has alarmed key allies, including France, which has around 4,500 troops in West Africa who are taking the lead in fighting ISIS and Qaeda insurgents there. The French rely on American intelligence, logistics support and aerial refueling — at a cost to the Pentagon of about $45 million a year.

French officials say they are moving to be more self-sufficient — ordering more American-made C-130 transport planes and Reaper drones, as well as leading a new effort to have European special forces train African militaries.

NYT | 25.12.2019

US-Rückzug aus Sahara und Sahel?