The CIA under President Donald Trump has expanded its drone program in Africa with a recently built-up airbase in northeastern Niger the likely launchpad for surveillance and bombings across the region, the New York Times reported Sunday.
The expansion reflects the agency’s reclaimed authority to conduct covert lethal drone strikes—a capacity President Barack Obama curtailed but which Trump returned to the CIA soon after taking office.
The new base, the Times reported, is in the desert town of Dirkou. That makes it much closer to the militant hotbed of southwestern Libya than the Pentagon’s base 800 miles southwest in the capital of Niamey, and also closer than the Pentagon’s new massive and pricey drone base in the Saharan city of Agadez in central Niger.
Satellite imagery obtained by Times shows how the Dirkou airbase, “labeled a United States Air Force base as a cover,” has expanded since February. It now includes “a larger paved taxiway and a clamshell tent connected to the airstrip—all features that are consistent with the deployment of small aircraft, possibly drones.” It also appears that there are “new security gates and checkpoints both to the compound and the broader airport.”
Drones launched there reportedly target al Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents.
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