Pentagon: U.S. Aircraft, Drones In Demand In Africa

Pentagon: U.S. Aircraft, Drones In Demand In Africa

U.S. military aircraft are expected to fly Rwandan troops to the Central African Republic as part of an African Union mission, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday, according to a report in BusinessStandard.

The operation, which could start within two days, will be similar to one conducted in December when two U.S. C-17 cargo planes transported 850 soldiers from Burundi to CAR, Lt. Col. Rob Firman told AFP.

“We have a request from the A.U. to move Rwandans,” General David Rodriguez, head of the military’s Africa Command, told reporters last week, BusinessStandard reports. “We’re in the process of coordinating those efforts now with the Rwandans and the French right now.”

The Pentagon did not say how many Rwandan troops would be taken to the Central African Republic.

Rwanda said last week it planned to send about 800 troops to join the African Union force, which is 4,000 strong and could reach 6,000.

The A.U. contingent, which includes troops from Burundi, Cameroon, Congo Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea, is working alongside about 1,600 French troops.

America’s large fleet of cargo aircraft as well as its surveillance drones are increasingly in demand from French and African Union forces after unrest in Mali, Central African Republic and South Sudan, BusinessStandard reports.

U.S. logistical support for Rwanda comes despite a recent chill in relations between the two countries.

In 2012, Washington accused Kigali of supporting the M23 rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo and froze $200,000 in military assistance to Rwanda.

In October, the U.S. renewed its suspension for fiscal year 2014.

But Washington went ahead with the airlift for the Rwandan troops to CAR as the suspension does not apply to an international peacekeeping mission, officials said.

Sectarian violence and chaos erupted in the CAR after a March coup in which the mainly
Muslim Seleka rebel group overthrew President Francois Bozize.