U.S. officials raised the possibility of basing the planes about 220 miles to the west, in the city of Bobo Dioulasso, according to the cable. Boly said that the Americans could use that airport on a “short term or emergency basis” but that a U.S. presence there “would likely draw greater attention.”
In an interview with The Post, Djibril Bassole, the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, praised security relations between his country and the United States, saying they were crucial to containing al-Qaeda forces in the region.
“We need to fight and protect our borders,” he said. “Once they infiltrate your country, it’s very, very difficult to get them out.”
Bassole declined, however, to answer questions about the activities of U.S. Special Operations forces in his country.
“I cannot provide details, but it has been very, very helpful,” he said. “This cooperation should be very, very discreet. We should not show to al-Qaeda that we are now working with the Americans.”
Discretion is not always strictly observed. In interviews last month, residents of Ouagadougou said American service members and contractors stand out, even in plainclothes, and are appreciated for the steady business they bring to bars and a pizzeria in the city center.
In April 2010, one American, in particular, drew attention. A U.S. contractor who had been assigned to support the surveillance missions in Ouagadougou was flying home from Africa on leave when he announced that he had been “in Ouaga illegally” and was carrying dynamite in his boots and laptop.
As the contractor, Derek Stansberry, mumbled other incoherent stories about allegedly top-secret operations, he was grabbed by U.S. air marshals aboard the
Paris-to-Atlanta flight. No explosives were found, but the incident drew international attention.
Stansberry, who did not respond to a request for comment, was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity; he said he was overstressed and had overdosed on the sleep aid Ambien.
A photograph on his Facebook page around the time of the incident showed him posing in the cockpit of a Pilatus aircraft. The caption read: “Flying a PC-12 ain’t that hard.”