The Obama administration is enhancing the U.S. presence in Africa, which it is increasingly identifying as the new front in the war against Islamic militants. New drones for the CIA will be partially deployed in Afghanistan in an attempt to take up the slack as Western troop presence wanes over the next year, but most of the aircraft will be going to an existing facility in the Seychelles and to an airbase near Mombasa in Kenya that is being leased. The drones will be able to locate and hit targets in the south Sahara region that have been hitherto out of reach, including Mali. An upgrade in facilities in Ethiopia is also in the works to permit drone operations.

The CIA has also re-established a presence on the ground in Somalia, though it is highly unusual to have a Station in a country where the U.S. has no diplomatic representation. The Station is located in a red building near the Mogadishu airport and is well known to locals. I recently spoke to a foreign visitor who said that even cab drivers refer to the “CIA building.” Since the U.S. has no official presence in Somalia, the Station is actually run by a private contractor, also highly unusual by CIA norms. The building is surrounded by a fence and a wall and is further protected by African Union soldiers assigned to the airport as well as by local militiamen who serve as contract guards.