Last week it became known that the United States intends to establish a base in Niger, which neighbors Mali, to operate surveillance drones. The United States has operated surveillance and missile strike drones from Djibouti and surveillance only drones and fixed-wing surveillance aircraft from Ethiopia, the Seychelles, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
Kate Almquist Knopf posted on 5 February 2013 a blog on the Center for Global Development site titled "Friend or Foe? US Counterterrorism Strategy in Africa," which raises serious questions about the use of drones for missile strikes. She argues that the use of drones in US counterterrorism strategy in Africa should be measured against three criteria: (1) is this strategy commensurate with the security challenge posed; (2) has the US government considered the depths of the implication of this strategy; and (3) is this level of effort appropriate relative to other US interests in Africa?
I agree with her concern when drones are used for missile strikes. But so long as drones are used for surveillance and intelligence collection they are a completely appropriate tool for countering the activities of terrorist groups. So far, at least, the proposed drone operation in Niger is only intended to provide intelligence.