The United States is planning to set up a new drone base in Africa's northwest to monitor militant activity in the region, officials today told The New York Times.
The plans have not yet received formal approval from the White House.
The news comes as the French lead a military offensive against militants in Mali, highlighting growing concern over extremist activity on the continent.
Senior defense officials confirmed the plans for the new drone base to Fox News, saying Niger is one possible location for the unit. Niger borders Mali on the east, and Fox claimed the US today signed its first-ever "status of forces agreement" with the small African nation.
Current plans for the base are said to be focused on increasing US monitoring in the region -- the drones would not carry weapons. But administration sources refused to rule out the possibility of using the base for missile strikes if threatened, according to NYT.
The Atlantic's Wire was more explicit, saying "it doesn't take much imagination to find other uses for such an outpost or the planes that are based there," later adding that the move is "a clear signal that the US now considers North Africa to be a theater in the never-ending, non-declared war on terror (with lowercase letters)."
No additional details on the proposed base were immediately available.