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The Air Force's new presence in West Africa that began in late February has around 100 airmen deployed to Niamey, the southwestern region of Niger.
The airmen "provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region," President Obama wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to Congress.
Included is a team of Air Force Security Forces to protect U.S. resources, personnel and interests in the region, all with Niger's authorization, said Africa Command spokesman Thomas Sanders.
The deployment is an effort "to promote regional stability." It's been more than a month since French operations began to fight extremist Islamic rebels that had taken control of Mali's northern provinces. French and Mali troops have taken back much of the region.
The Air Force flew more than 2 million pounds of cargo to Mali and more than 40 missions.
The unarmed, unmanned aircraft operations are the first of their kind in West Africa. The Air Force had been flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties out of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and civilian airports in Seychelles and Ethiopia. The service also flies manned ISR platforms, including the U-28A, out of Djibouti.
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