The U.S. military has confirmed it runs "broad ranging" intelligence operations in Africa, though it stopped short of verifying a report that it has set up small air bases across the continent to keep watch on terrorist groups.
A statement issued Friday said the U.S. military "routinely" works with African partner nations to "counter" those who threaten regional security and stability in Africa.
The U.S. military said it employs its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in Africa "based on security threats of mutual concern."
The Washington Post newspaper reported
Thursday that the U.S. military has set up about a dozen air bases in Africa to conduct surveillance, in countries that include Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles.
The paper said the targets of the surveillance include al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, Yemen and Africa's Sahel region, and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat to regional stability presented by such groups and others like Nigeria's Boko Haram.
Instead of drones, The Post
says the surveillance is conducted by small planes - usually single-engine PC-12s with only a pilot aboard. The report says the unarmed planes are equipped to record video, track infrared heat patterns and catch radio and cellphone signals.
A single-engine turboprop PC-12, the type of plane the U.S. military is reportedly using to record video, track infrared heat patterns, and catch radio and cellphone signals in Africa.
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations, July 31, 2006, Congo near the Sudan border.
Troops from the Central African Republic stand outside a building used for meetings between them and U.S. Army special forces seeking the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, Obo, Central African Republic, April 29, 2012.
U.S. Special Forces soldier trains troops from Senegal combat techniques in Kati, Mali, during a joint training exercise with units from several African countries where al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is active, May 12, 2010.
Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard as they prepare to hand over a Swiss female hostage in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali, April 24, 2012.
Suspected members of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram are detained by the military in Bukavu Barracks in Kano state, Nigeria, March 21, 2012.
A spokesman for the Kenyan Defense Forces, Colonel Cyrus Oguna, has denied there are U.S. air bases in Kenya, or that U.S. forces are using Kenyan airspace.
According to The Post
, U.S. military Special Operations forces supervise the surveillance, but the program relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.
The Washington Post
previously reported that the U.S. has a secret program in east Africa and the Arabian peninsula that uses drone airplanes to watch militants in Somalia and Yemen.
The newspaper said its latest report was based on unnamed U.S. military and government officials, African officials, U.S. government contracting documents, unclassified military reports and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.