The United States is assembling a series of secret drone bases in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a more aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda groups in Somalia and Yemen, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller report today
The expansion of the bases reflects growing worries about the activities of those al-Qaeda affiliates, as well as an overall effort by the military for broader geographic coverage and greater leverage with countries in the region.
“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” a former senior U.S. military official told the Post.
Below, we take a look at those four new bases:
— Ethiopia: There had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for years, but the plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed,” according to a U.S. official. Ethiopia has become a valuable U.S. ally in the fight against Somali militant group al-Shabab, and a base is now being established there.
— Seychelles: The island nation has been home to a small fleet of Reaper drones since September 2009, but U.S. and Seychellois officials said their main purpose was to track pirates and that they would not be armed. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks show, however, that the aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions in Somalia and that the U.S. was thinking about weaponizing the drones. A small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones, based in a hangar at the Seychelles airport, have now resumed operations after a test mission determined that aircraft based there could patrol Somalia.
— Djibouti: This tiny African country is also a base from which the U.S. military can fly drones over Somalia.
— Arabian peninsula: A secret airstrip is being built here by the CIA for the deployment of armed drones over Yemen. The U.S. says al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge in the area for years to come.
The U.S. government has previously used drones to carry out lethal attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Read the full story here.