October 28, 2011.
Washington - The US Air Force is flying armed drones from a civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a growing battle against al-Qaeda linked Shabaab militants in Somalia, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The airfield in Arba Minch is part of a network of secret bases for unmanned aircraft in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, the Post reported, citing unnamed US officials.
The US Air Force has spent millions of dollars to improve the airfield in Ethiopia to accommodate a fleet of Reaper drones that carry Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs, it said.
The US Air Force and the Pentagon declined to comment on the report.
Under President Barack Obama, the United States has increasingly turned to drones to carry out covert strikes against al-Qaeda and allied militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The raids are conducted under the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, not the military, but special operations forces and drone aircraft can be assigned to the spy agency for the strikes.
A spokesperson for the 17th Air Force, which is assigned to operations in Africa, told the Post the drone flights "will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs."
The United States and Ethiopia both view Islamist militants in Somalia as a threat, and Washington backed Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia in 2006.
In support of the Ethiopian incursion, US AC-130 gunships carried out attacks from a base in Ethiopia. The government however ended the arrangement once it became public.
Kenya sent forces into southern Somalia 12 days ago to chase Shabaab militants, but has denied the United States or other Western countries are actively involved in the military operations.
Comment: The US is now officially at war on the continent and it has come to pass with the help of undemocratic and despotic regimes like the one in Ethiopia.
In the coming months the war in east Africa will spread and drone killings will be a daily reality that will hardly cause a stir.
Obama is supposedly withdrawing from Iraq (a decision taken in Bush's administration by the way) and he is expanding the war on the African front.
How far have we come?
In the cold-war era the US fought proxy wars all over the continent for 'freedom' while propping up undemocratic regimes (Angola, Zaire, 'Rhodesia', South Africa, among others).
Now the same is true (in fact it has hardly stopped). What is significant now is that some computer geek working for the US military can kill Africans with drones during the day and drive home in the evening.
This is a remote controlled war and the casualties are African. The interests like in the cold-war are American.
Where is the African Union in all of this? Where is the UN too?
Are these two organizations just allowing this expanded drone warfare - oh yeah they just did in Libya where drones were used too?
Watch your back.