Niger would welcome armed U.S. drones
NIAMEY, Niger — Niger would be open to the deployment of armed U.S. drones to help in its battle against an armed Islamist threat and drug trafficking in the Sahara, Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum said on Wednesday.
Washington deployed about 100 military personnel and unarmed surveillance drones in Niger when a French-led military operation in January destroyed an al-Qaida enclave in neighboring northern Mali.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou's government, concerned not only by the presence of Islamists but also the trafficking of arms, cocaine and cannabis in the north, wants to further reinforce military ties with the country's Western partners.
“Our cooperation is giving good results, but it is not enough. It needs to be reinforced and rethought at every level — both our capacity to collect intelligence and to conduct operations,” Bazoum said.
France has sent Special Forces to Niger to protect uranium mines, operated by its state-controlled nuclear energy company Areva, which are crucial to French electricity supplies. But it does not have armed drones.
Used for protecting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and killing terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen, drones can be remotely piloted from bases in the United States.
Drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen have increased under President Obama, and the pilotless aerial vehicles have become a key part of the fight against al-Qaida.
Niger has reinforced its border patrols but needs help to take on groups of armed traffickers operating near the border regions with Mali, Algeria and lawless southern Libya.
An EU mission is training security forces to tackle the threat but their efficacy is constrained by a lack of aircraft, vehicles and weapons.
“Drug trafficking is destabilising because the huge amount of money in the hands of these groups means they exceed our army's capacity in terms of weapons,” Bazoum said. Gangs also used their profits to corrupt local authorities and security forces, he said.
Despite the presence in Mali of some 3,000 French troops and the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), to which Niger contributes troops, trafficking routes across West Africa remain wide open, from Mauritania on the Atlantic coast, through Algeria and Mali, into Niger and Libya, Bazoum said.
“I would really welcome armed drones to shoot down drug traffickers, and all those who live from activities linked to drug trafficking. I don't see why that shouldn't be possible,” Bazoum said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Slain editor’s book condemns ‘Islamophobia’
- Al-Qaida exploits chaos in Yemen, seizing weapons depot
- Pakistan could put nukes on new submarines sold by China
- Report: Iraqi security forces kill Saddam aide al Douri, but DNA will confirm
- Russia ignores U.N. sanctions, ends missile ban to Iran
- Obama warns Iran to respect sovereignty
- Unilateral Obama sanction relief for Iranians possible