Wednesday, September 21, 2011
According to an article in the Washington Post, the Obama administration is building a massive network of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of an aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen.
At the center of the operation is the CIA.
The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.
In the Republic of Seychelles — an island nation of 85,000, has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.
In cables obtained by WikiLeaks, U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reaper drones are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.
One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.
SOURCE: Washington Post