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Heron TP, IAI
Heron TP, IAI

Unmanned air systems (UAS) play an increasing role in the war against terror. This , in spite criticism that is claiming that armed UAS are performing many “focused killing” of terrorists instead of bringing them to justice.

With the war in Mali and other parts of Africa not showing a sign of slowing down  the U.S. Africa Command is now establishing a UAS base in northwest Africa in order to bolster U.S. surveillance – and operational — capabilities against Islamist groups in the region. Initially, the UAS flying from the base will conduct unarmed surveillance missions, but there is little doubt that if targets present themselves, these drones will be equipped with missiles and go on hunting-killing missions.

In  2008, the U.S. Africa Command was established, signaling the growing importance of Africa to U.S. national security. The command is responsible for U.S. military operations and military relations with fifty-three of the African continent’s fifty-four independent countries (one African country, Egypt, is part of the area of responsibility of the U.S. Central Command).

Two developments have exacerbated the security situation in Africa.

As reported by HLS News Wire website the first is the success of the Obama administration’s campaign against terrorist havens in northwest Pakistan. The cumulative effect of the relentless drone campaign the United States has been conducting since early 2009 has forced al Qaeda and a Qaeda-affiliated organizations to look for other places to serve as bases of operations. Yemen and Somalia were initially viewed as good locations, but U.S. drones reached the terrorist hideouts there, and in the case of Somalia, neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya kept sending their own militaries in to fight the Islamists.

These Islamists soon came to regard the western part of the Sahel —  a vast stretch of largely empty territory, consisting of desert, semi-arid grasslands, savannas, and steppes, covering parts of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania — as the ideal area from which to begin and launch their operations.

The second development has been the Arab Spring, which saw authoritarian regimes often replaced by weak and fractured governments, the mushrooming of ethnic- and religion-based militias, and the loss of central control over large arsenals of sophisticated arms of all types.