In it’s fight against terrorism globally, the U.S. military is expanding a network of bases throughout Africa from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator. This is being done in order to spy on al-Qaida and other militant groups. The intelligence-gathering which will be done by small, unarmed planes (drones) equipped with hidden state-of-the-art sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals. The unmarked turboprop planes will fly thousands of miles between air bases and bush landing strips across the vast continent. The program which dates back five years, underscores the massive expansion of U.S. special forces operations in recent years and the steady militarization of intelligence operations during the decade-long war on al-Qaida. Bases in Burkina Faso and Mauritania are used to spy on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, while bases in Uganda are used in the hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal guerrilla movement led by Joseph Kony, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The spy program is overseen by U.S. Special Operations but relies on help from private military contractors and African troops.
This is part of the America’s strategy which calls for partnerships with regional governments to disrupt and eventually destroy al Qaeda and its African affiliates. It specifically targets the terror group’s affiliates al-Shabab in Somalia and East Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North and West Africa, and Boko Haram in Nigeria.