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US expands military presence in West Africa
January 29, 2013, 2:11 pm

The US will become the latest Western nation to intervene in the increasingly volatile region of Sub-Saharan and West Africa when it begins to deploy military personnel and materiel ahead of an anticipated base for drone aircraft in the continent’s northwest.

US officials are currently seeking to establish the base either in Burkina Faso or Niger, both of which border the war-torn nation of Mali.

French soldiers in Mali. [AP]

French soldiers in Mali. [AP]

For the past year, counter-terrorism experts have voiced concerns that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb used the political instability created by a coup in March to seize control of Mali’s northern sector and set up a virtual state within a state – a sanctuary for extremist groups.

In September, France urged the US to speed up its support of an African-led military intervention to free Northern Mali of forces linked to Al-Qaeda.

On January 10, France began an aerial bombing campaign sanctioned by the United Nations to pave the way for the deployment of an all-African military force including troops from Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria to repel the rebels.

According to a report first published in The New York Times yesterday, the US military presence in West Africa is primarily designed to support French operations in Mali but could be expanded later to facilitate the launching of missile strikes.

The unnamed officials in report said that Al-Qaeda has proven to be a growing threat in the region.

The increased US – and French – involvement in West Africa comes a week after British Prime Minister David Cameron called for firm resolve and increased engagement with African governments to combat the Al-Qaeda threat.

Cameron was speaking shortly after sources confirmed that six UK nationals had died in the hostage crisis at the Almenas gas processing facility in southeastern Algeria, near the Libyan border.

“This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,” he said.

On Tuesday, Canadian officials said Special Forces were deployed to secure their embassy in Bamako, the capital of Mali.

Source: Agencies