US military in Africa making changes to protect troops
Dakar, Senegal July 31, 2018(AltAfrica) -The U.S. military in Africa has taken steps to increase the security of troops on the ground, adding armed drones and armored vehicles and taking a harder look at when American forces go out with local troops, the head of the U.S. Africa Command says.
Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser told reporters on Monday the U.S. also has cut the response time needed for medical evacuations — the result of a broad review in the wake of last year’s ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and four of their Niger counterparts.
A report is due in mid-August on actions taken in response to the findings, Waldhauser said. He released a report in May on the ambush, which has been blamed on extremists linked to the Islamic State organization.
He said Africa’s challenges remain vast, from Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked groups in the west to al-Shabab in the east.
The U.S. takes a hard look at what is necessary when accompanying local forces on operations, “in terms of when it’s necessary; is the threat there going against something that’s significant to the U.S. homeland and our national interests,” he said.
Drones are part of the strategy to provide intelligence-gathering for partner nations so they can “consider various operations and take on these threats,” Waldhauser said.
The U.S. has authority to carry out drone strikes in Libya and Somalia, according to AFRICOM, but Waldhauser confirmed that “we have been arming out of Niger, and we’ll use that as appropriate.” The U.S. says it started arming drones in Niger earlier this year; they are currently deployed to an air base in the capital, Niamey.
He stopped in Senegal while in the region for an annual senior leader and communications symposium in Cape Verde, according to the U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. maintains a small site at Camp Cisse in Dakar’s old airport that allows for U.S. military aircraft to land and refuel. It also allows for storage and use during crisis situations in West Africa such as the response to the deadly Ebola outbreak a few years ago or to any threats against embassies.
America’s role on the continent is to build the capacity of local partner forces, Waldhauser said.