In an extensive piece today, the Washington Post details a vastly expanded secret intelligence operation that the US military has been establishing across Africa since 2007, a surveillance network of disguised aircraft and a dozen air bases used to spy on al-Qaeda and other terrorist operations. The Obama administration has relied heavily on Special Ops, and this operation shows how such forces are expanding into the CIA's realm and working in many areas other than war zones, the Post notes. Secretive surveillance operations have intensified lately as the US fights militant groups such as Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, and some are worried about a backlash as the US gets more involved.
Details about the secret missions have never been reported previously; the Post put together information based on military reports and government documents, diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, and interviews with people involved. Most of the air bases are hidden in hangars at African military bases or civilian airports; private military contractors and African troops also support the efforts. The Post paints a picture of some of the key hubs from which spy planes are deployed hundreds of miles; the planes—which look like private aircraft—can record video, radio, and cellphone signals, among other things. Some of the bases also launch drones. See the full article for more details, including groups the military is monitoring.