US Has Resumed Drone Operations Out of Niger, Prime Common Says

The U.S. has resumed drone flights out of Niger “inside the final couple of weeks” regardless of a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president, the highest U.S. Air Power commander for Africa mentioned Sept 13.

America had halted drone operations after the July coup, Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa informed reporters on Sept. 13 at AFA’s Air, Area & Cyber Convention.

Some 1,100 U.S. troops are based mostly in Niger, and now U.S. manned and unmanned platforms are again to extra regular operations. That has allowed the U.S. to regain visibility to help its counterterrorism missions within the nation.

“We’re persevering with to do the mission now,” Hecker mentioned.

The U.S. has taken a wait-and-see strategy because the junta’s takeover, which risked jeopardizing U.S. counterterrorism missions in a lot of Africa and raised questions on America’s capacity to hold out navy operations in that area. The Biden administration has not formally declared the removing of President Mohammad Bazoum a coup, a authorized transfer that might require the U.S. to chop off navy help beneath U.S. regulation.

For the reason that coup, present and former U.S. officers have pressured that there may nonetheless be some hope the U.S. may attain an settlement to renew counterterrorism efforts.

“If Western operations are considerably impacted by this, it’s going to be unhealthy for the Nigerien folks,” retired Military Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, who led U.S. Africa Command from 2019-2022, beforehand informed Air & Area Forces Journal. “It’s going to be unhealthy for the area. It’s going to be unhealthy for Europe earlier than it’s unhealthy for America, nevertheless it’s going to be unhealthy for everyone.”

Led by the State Division, the U.S. was capable of calm tensions and regain its capacity to make use of the nation as an important drone base, Hecker mentioned.

“They have been capable of flip that round pretty shortly the place we didn’t should completely evacuate all the pieces on the market,” Hecker mentioned of the State Division’s efforts.

The U.S. did transfer personnel from Air Base 101 close to the capital of Niamey to Air Base 201 over 500 miles away within the metropolis of Agadez on the sting of the Sahara desert. “However we did take some issues and personnel, and we moved them to 201, which is a base which isn’t beneath as a lot stress, if you’ll. And we hope that that’s going to be perhaps a brief factor, and issues will relax as they look like,” Hecker mentioned.

The Pentagon acknowledged the motion of U.S. forces from Air Base 101 to Air Base 201 in “a precautionary measure,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh mentioned Sept 7. “There isn’t any menace to American troops and no menace of violence on the bottom.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder added in a Sept. 9. assertion that the “general pressure posture of U.S. forces in Niger stays the identical.”

Hecker mentioned that whereas plane are nonetheless flying, the gap between the 2 bases did have an operational impression, as many targets of surveillance are farther from Air Base 201 than Air Base 101.

“You’re doing the mission, however you’re not getting as a lot knowledge since you’re not overhead for as lengthy simply due to the gasoline it takes to get there and again,” Hecker mentioned.

Gen. James B. Hecker, Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa at Air & Area Forces Affiliation’s 2023 Air, Area & Cyber Convention on September 12, at Nationwide Harbor, Maryland. Picture by Mike Tsukamoto/Air & Area Forces Journal