US: US intelligence, alarmed at the emergence of a jihadist sanctuary in northern Mali, is considering providing Algeria, the military heavyweight in North Africa, with a surveillance satellite to monitor al-Qaida operations in the Sahara region.
The plan, reported by the Intelligence Online website, appears to be part of a growing US effort to bolster regional military forces arrayed against the jihadist fighters who have controlled northern Mali since spring 2012, without committing US forces to yet another foreign conflict.
Algeria has for some months refused US requests that UAVs deployed in Burkina Faso, a West African state south of Algeria, and in the southern desert of Morocco, a longtime US ally, be allowed to use Algerian airspace to track the jihadists.
Middle Eastern intelligence sources say the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency believe they need Algerian support to monitor the ungoverned spaces of the Sahara and the semi-arid Sahel region to the south that runs from Africa”s Atlantic coast to the Red Sea in the east.
“To be able to do so, these services are advocating Algiers acquire its own optical observation system and develop its own fleet of drones,” Intelligence Online reported.
Providing Algeria with spy satellites may turn out to be the short end of the stick for the Americans, who say al-Qaida is extending its operations across Africa, including oil-rich Nigeria to the south and the Horn of Africa in the east.