GSN News 
Feb 1, 2013
The U.S. is pressing its support of African nation-led efforts to push back the Islamist insurgency in Mali and has clinched a deal with Niger to that will facilitate closer monitoring of the north African region, which has become a safe haven for al Qaeda-linked terror groups.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nueland said in a Jan. 30 briefing the U.S. has earmarked $96 million in aid to the African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA) to Mali which is helping to push back the Islamist insurgency there.
Although Nuland didn’t directly confirm in her briefing that the U.S. has established a drone base in nearby Niger, she did say that after a year of work, the U.S. has signed a Status of Forces Agreement with that country’s government. News reports have said Niger has given permission for U.S. surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to watch the al Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali and the Sahara region.
“I’m obviously not going to get into intelligence issues, but [the agreement] enables us to work more closely in military-to-military channels and other channels with the Government of Niger on issues that we share concerns about,” she said.