100 US Troops Are Setting Up Near Mali To Support French Fighters

US Special Forces

About 100 U.S. military personnel have been sent to the African nation of Niger, according to a report from the Associated Press.

In a letter to Congress, President Barack Obama said troops will focus on intelligence sharing with French soldiers fighting Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali.

U.S. troops will be armed, “for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”

The troops are likely a mixture of Special Forces and support troops, and according to a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, includes a U.S. Air Force security team.

“They are there to support and facilitate intelligence collection in support of French forces,” Tom Saunders, spokesman for AFRICOM, told Business Insider.

The Pentagon is also considering plans to base unarmed spy drones in Niger to boost its ability to see what is happening in the region. Militants have taken to hiding in the mountainous northeastern region of Mali, which makes movement difficult with its steep, craggy hills and valleys.

According to one analysis from Stratfor, the “broken terrain favours an established defender by making movement physically harder for personnel and mechanically restrictive on vehicles.”

Mali and Niger

Photo: Google Maps

For the French, the presence of U.S. 

drones will likely be a welcome asset, enabling them to penetrate into the northern region that favours the insurgents.

What no one is saying is that putting these troops in a bordering nation to Mali is a quick and easy way to have them enter the fight there. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on Jan. 23, 2012, told the Senate, “We are in for a struggle, but it is a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven.”

The additional U.S. forces will complement over 300 British troops operating in the region, which are a mixture of training teams and British special forces, according to The Guardian.

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