Report: White House Mulling Possible Drone Strikes in North Africa

Posted October 2nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The White House has declined to confirm or deny a report that says it is considering whether to carry out drone strikes against al-Qaida's branch in North Africa.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday the White House has held secret meetings to consider unilateral action against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

The group has become increasingly entrenched in North Africa, especially in northern Mali, which fell earlier this year to Islamist militants allied with al-Qaida.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor did not comment on specifics in the article.

In a statement, he said “the president has been clear about his goal to destroy al-Qaida's network and we work toward that goal every day,” Vietor said. He added, “We aren't going to get into the specifics of any of these discussions or policy prescriptions.”

The Post quotes a top U.S. counterterrorism official as saying the talks are focused on helping regional militaries battle al-Qaida. But the official, who is reportedly involved in the talks, added they are also looking at possible direct U.S. intervention if the terror group goes unchecked.

Pentagon spokesman George Little says the situation is being monitored and the United States is ready to help states in the region.

“With respect to what we're doing today, and what our focus is in Africa, there are no plans at this stage for unilateral U.S. military operations in Mali or in the region.”

The U.S. has frequently used drones to strike at al-Qaida-linked targets in Pakistan, Somalia and other countries.

Separately, the West African bloc, ECOWAS, is making plans to send some 3,000 military personnel to Mali to help oust the militants in the north. The bloc, which is acting on a request from Mali's interim government, is awaiting approval from the U.N. Security Council.