The U.S. is in talks with different North African countries to establish a drone base there as it expands the fight against Islamic State in the region, particularly in Libya, according to InternationalBusinessTimes.
Such a move would be the most significant expansion of the campaign against the extremist group in the region, WallStreetJournal reports. It would help eliminate “blind spots” facing U.S. and Western spy agencies. Washington and its allies want to stop Isis from expanding beyond Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led military campaign is already under way against the group.
Drone strikes work, says U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who returned last week from his seventh trip to Africa, focusing this trip on emerging terror threats.
“I don’t want to think about where we’d be without (the drone program),” LoBiondo said in a PressOfAtlanticCity interview. “When we take out an operational leader from a terror organization, they don’t have a problem filling that position. But they lose the capability and institutional knowledge. That’s all to our benefit. It leaves them much less capable, and it forces them to worry about their own survival.”
Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti is the only permanent military base on the African continent. It’s where the U.S. launches operations against terror groups in Yemen and Somalia.
Nearly 1,000 militants and 100 civilians have been killed by U.S. airstrikes in Yemen since 2002, according to the Washington research group New America Foundation, PressOfAtlanticCity reports.
The desire for a drone base is an acknowledgment that Isis has expanded its area of influence despite allied and U.S. bombardment in Syria and Iraq, according to WallStreetJournal.
U.S. officials say they have too little real-time intelligence on Islamic State activities in Libya. Existing bases are too far away to allow for persistent surveillance. Drones have to travel long distances, limiting the time they can spend observing militants in Libya before returning for fuel and maintenance.
The U.S. uses Naval Air Station Sigonella, in Sicily, Italy, for some drone flights over Libya but coverage is limited, IBTimes reports.
Tunisia or Egypt, both friendly to the U.S. have extensive borders with Libya and would be obvious choices for a drone base.