February 23, 2013
President Obama announced Friday that about 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to the West African country of Niger, where defense officials said they are setting up a drone base to spy on al-Qaeda fighters in the Sahara.
It was the latest step by the Pentagon to increase its intelligence-gathering across Africa in response to what officials see as a rising threat from militant groups.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said about 40 U.S. service members arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of troops based there to â€śapproximatelyâ€ť 100. He said the troops, which are armed for self-protection, would support a French-led military operation in neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda fighters and other militants have carved out a refuge in a remote territory the size of Texas.