CIA expands drone operations from secret base in Niger

The expansion of the Dirkou base indicates that the intelligence agency plans to carry out attacks from there if it receives authorization from the administration

CIA expands drone operations from secret base in Niger

Photo by Airman Michelle Ulber

The Central Intelligence Agency is conducting flights using remote-controlled aircraft and other drones from a secret base in Niger, even as the administration of President Biden has temporarily limited airstrikes by unmanned aircraft against terror targets. 

The CIA established the base in 2018 in northern Niger, and from there, the New York Times reported, attacks by remote-controlled aircraft are carried out against Al-Qaeda, although there is no proof that those attacks were with munitions. The flights from the Dirkou base, located next to a commercial airport, are aimed at observing what is occurring in southwestern Libya, an area where Al-Qaeda is active together with other terrorist organizations that operate in the the Sahel region of Niger, Chad and Mali. 

The expansion of the Dirkou base indicates that the intelligence agency plans to carry out attacks from there if it receives authorization from the administration, which is currently reviewing these attacks. Satellite images show that the Dirkou base was expanded recently, with the runway lengthened and security measures increased. The images showed an aircraft appearing to be an MQ-9 Reaper drone, and another aircraft appearing to be a U-28A that is usually used for operational support of special forces.   

Under the Biden administration, the US military and the CIA are required to receive authorization from the White House to attack terror suspects in places where the American military is not present, such as Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Terror organizations have recently increased their operations in areas where they had not operated in the past, such as the Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo and Ghana.  

It is known that the US Africa Command operates Reaper drones from Niger's capital Niamey, located 800km south of the Dirkou base, and from the Agadez base in Niger. The US military has attacked Al-Qaeda and Islamic State targets in Libya, but not since September 2019. 

CIA spokesman Timothy Barrett declined to comment on the New York Times report. A spokeswoman for the US Africa Command, Ncole Kirschmann, said the command is not involved in the construction at the Dirkou base. 

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