US in danger of losing control of its extensive drone base in Niger

US in danger of losing control of its extensive drone base in Niger
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flying a combat mission / Wikipedia (author Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
By bne IntelliNews August 21, 2023

The US military has a major drone base in Agadez, Niger, which it may lose control of following a coup d'état last month.

Originally planned as a base for surveillance drones when built in 2014, the base has evolved over time. It is now home to armed Reaper drones and is the largest facility of its kind in Africa.

The fate of the base is up in the air now, following a coup d'état that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum’s government and replaced it with the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country military junta on July 26.

The 10-year usage agreement, signed with the previous government, expires next year, as relations under the new regime have done an abrupt about-face. Niger had good relations with former colonial power France, which maintains a 2,000-strong military force there to guard against jihadist insurrectionists.

However, as reported by bna IntelliNews, the war in Ukraine and the clash between East and West has had dramatic consequences in Africa. The military junta has abandoned France and thrown in its lot with Moscow. Russia has rapidly expanded its influence in Africa including in Niger.

The Agadez drone base, officially referred to as Nigerien Air Base 201 (AB 201), was a core component of the expanded US military presence in Africa, and was the most expansive base-building endeavour ever undertaken by the US Air Force.

Unlike many drone bases in Africa, which are often tied to larger airports or airfields, Agadez necessitated creating a comprehensive infrastructure from the ground up due to the absence of existing facilities. As a result, the sheer scale of the undertaking has made Agadez the most expansive “airman-built” initiative in the history of the US Air Force.

In addition to the operational centre, the base boasts a well-equipped environment reminiscent of typical US installations, complete with recreational facilities, accommodations, and amenities that come with for its personnel.