Obama: Our Mission in Niger Has Begun At least 100 military personnel stationed next to Mali By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff Posted Feb 22, 2013 6:01 PM CST 212 comments Comments In this Feb. 15, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Chicago. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Newser) – President Obama told Congress today that he has sent troops to Niger to support France's mission against militants in neighboring Mali, Reuters reports. But the deployment of about 100 military personnel will only set up a base for unarmed aircraft to conduct surveillance, he wrote in a letter. He didn't explicitly reference drones, but NBC News—which numbers the first wave of personnel at 250 to 300—reports that two surveillance drones will initially be stationed there. The move marks the beginning of another far-flung military mission for the US and a deeper commitment to battling terror in north Africa, the New York Times reports. Until this week, America's only permanent base in Africa was in Djibouti, some 3,000 miles from Mali—where French and African troops have won back northern cities but allowed militants to melt back into the desert. The militants have continued a small-scale campaign of suicide bombings, guard-post attacks, and the like.