The U.S. military has resumed flying drones and manned aircraft out of air bases in Niger more than a month after a coup temporarily halted all those activities there, the head of U.S. Air Forces for Europe and Africa said Wednesday.
Since the July coup, the 1,100 U.S. forces deployed in the country have been confined inside their military bases. Last week the Pentagon said some military personnel and assets had been moved from the air base near Niamey, which is the capital of Niger, to another in Agadez. Niamey is about 920 kilometers away from Agadez.
In response to a question from the Associated Press on how the U.S. was able to continue its counterterrorism missions without those flights, Gen. James Hecker, the top Air Force commander for Europe and Africa, said in recent weeks some of those intelligence and surveillance missions have been able to resume due to U.S. negotiations with the junta.
“For a while we weren’t doing any missions on the bases, they pretty much closed down the airfields,” Hecker said. “Through the diplomatic process, we are now doing, I wouldn’t say 100% of the missions that we were doing before, but we’re doing a large amount of missions that we’re doing before.”
In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that the U.S. was flying missions again but said they were confined to protecting U.S. forces.