WASHINGTON — The United States is investing in a military air base capable of deploying drones in Niger’s central city of Agadez, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.
The United States already has a military presence in the country’s southwestern capital of Niamey, where it stations MQ-9 Reaper drones and supports France’s anti-jihadist Barkhane force, among others.
The US "has negotiated an agreement with the government of Niger to allow for the construction of a new runway and all associated pavements, facilities and infrastructure" at the base in Agadez, Pentagon spokeswoman Michelle Baldanza said.
The Agadez site will remain Niger’s and is not slated to become a US post like Djibouti, home to the only permanent US base on the African continent, she said.
Baldanza estimated the US investment will cost $50 million, though The Intercept, which first reported the story, said it is slated to cost $100 million.
According to the investigative news site, which obtained formerly confidential military documents, Niger is the only country in the region willing to allow a US base for MQ-9 Reapers, and has positioned itself to be a key hub for US military operations in the region.
"There’s a trend toward greater engagement and a more permanent presence in West Africa -- the Maghreb and the Sahel," Adam Moore of the University of California Los Angeles told the site.
Investment in Agadez "suggests that Niger is becoming, after Djibouti, the second most important country for US military counterterrorism operations on the continent," he added. — AFP