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Africa Command is going to keep the UAVs and other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft it gained control of for the Libyan campaign — at least for a while. But now the mission has changed.UAVs in particular are needed to help track down stolen weapons and prevent even more weapons from being illegally removed, and to keep additional looters from entering Libya.So far, “given the missions that Africa Command has been handed, we’ve had the necessary ISR to accomplish them,” says Army Gen. Carter Ham, chief of Africa Command. “[The UAVs have] been principally [operational] in East Africa and more recently with heavy emphasis in Libya and the Sahel region [south of the Sahara where interest is] focused on how Al Qaida is getting its hands on the Islamic Maghreb [an Islamic radical militia with its origins in Algeria]," he adds.“The near-term challenge, as NATO contemplates concluding Operation Unified Protector [in Libya], is: How many of those [ISR assets] do I need to keep?” Ham asks. “How much of the Libya mission set comes back to Africa Command? We’re going through that drill right now.”In the near term, because of the threat of proliferation of weapons principally, and because of the interim government’s interest in securing its borders, “we’ll have a sustained U.S. ISR presence at least for the next several months [to aid in monitoring] the arms-trafficking routes,” Ham says. “Another [important issue] is emerging requirements. The challenge is access, overflight and bases. We are reliant on host nations to provide that.”
ar99, Predator, Libya, AfriCom
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