US considering drones in North Africa to monitor Islamic State: WSJ

Senior official says such a base would help US fill gaps in understanding of what's going on in the region

Reuters July 13, 2015

WASHINGTON: The United States is holding discussions with countries in North Africa about locating drones at a base there to heighten monitoring of Islamic State in Libya, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing a senior administration official.

Such a base near Islamic State strongholds in Libya would help the United States "fill gaps in our understanding of what's going on" in that region, the official was quoted as saying.

The newspaper said drone flights would give US military and intelligence agencies real-time information on the militant group's activities in Libya.

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Fighters allied with Islamic State commanders in Iraq and Syria have been gaining ground in Libya, where two rival governments are battling for control and militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum.

The Journal, citing senior US officials, said no North African country had yet agreed to offer access to a base.

It quoted officials as saying any such facility would likely be an existing base under the control of the host country, with the United States receiving permission to place drones there along with a limited number of military personnel.

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US allies Egypt and Tunisia share borders with Libya. But the Journal reported administration officials declined to identify countries that could host US drones.

US military officials told the paper that drones launched from the proposed base could also be used in air strikes against Islamic State targets in Libya and that the base could be a launching point for special operations missions against militants.