WASHINGTON — The U.S. Africa Command moved offshore Monday to launch its annual major African coordination exercise, as more eyes and more questions focused on Pentagon activities on the mainland continent.
Operation Africa Endeavor is designed to enhance multinational communications to improve coordination regionally in the battle against terrorism, responding to disasters and improving border peacekeeping activities, the Pentagon said. Such cross-border communications are critical since terrorism flows across international borders, officials have said.
For the first time in 18 years of the exercise it is being held in Cabo Verde, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
“In this venue, the expertise of U.S., African, Allied nations and international organizations is leveraged to develop workable solutions to communication challenges,” U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command, said Monday in a statement. “To date, Africa Endeavor has engaged more than 2,000 professionals on standard command, control, communications, and computer tactics, techniques and procedures.”
This year’s theme is “synchronizing partnership efforts to maximize interoperability,” according to the statement.
The main headquarters of AFRICOM is in Stuttgart, Germany.
The focus of Africa Command offshore this week occurs as increased reports flow about drone use by the Pentagon throughout Africa.
On Monday the Pentagon confirmed that it began arming drones it uses in Niger earlier this year. Niger is the nation where U.S. forces were ambushed last all in an incident still being questioned by some members of Congress.
It was that attack, which left four U.S. soldiers and four Niger soldiers dead along with two American soldiers and eight Niger forces wounded, that provided the impetus to get permission to arm drones, the Pentagon said.
“In coordination with the Government of Niger, US Africa Command has armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft already in Niger to improve our combined ability to respond to threats and other security issues in the region. Armed ISR aircraft began flying in early 2018,” Samantha Reho, a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command, told The Associated Press.
Drones are now operated from the air base in Niamey, Niger. Eventually the drones will be moved for operations out of a new base being constructed in Agadez, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. The $110 million project will permit drone use in a larger regional footprint across borders, the Pentagon has said.