DOD expands intelligence cooperation in Africa

So far, more than 31 intelligence officers from six different African nations have completed the Military Intelligence Non-Commission Officer Course-Africa (MINOC-A), according to U.S. military officials. 

The course, which is designed to hone "intelligence collection, analysis, information sharing [skills] among the participating nations," has been in place at Africa Command since August.

The most recent batch of graduates from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Senegal successfully passed the course on Oct. 17, according to a command statement

Intelligence officers from Mali have also completed previous versions of the course, which is rooted in "U.S. military intelligence techniques and procedures," according to command officials. 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is considering options on how to deal with al Qaeda's growing presence on the continent. 

Insurgent fighters with ties to al Qaeda's Africa cell, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have established a stronghold in the northern part of Mali in the wake of a successful coup in the country. 

Gen. Carter Ham, head of Africa Command, told reporters in July that AQIM has quietly emerged as the al Qaeda's strongest and best funded faction.

Bamako, Mali's capital, has been a longtime American ally in Africa, with U.S. special operations forces attached to Joint Special Operations Command-Trans Sahara conducting a number of military training operations with Mali over the past several years. 

France has already agreed to deploy a number of unmanned surveillance drones to the region in an attempt to support the Malian government's offensive against the terror group, according to The Associated Press. 

The United Nations has authorized Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help Mali draft a counter terrorism plan to regain control of the north. 

The Army is already preparing to deploy the first of several new units designed to expand American military presence across the globe to Africa Command. 

That new unit, combined with the intelligence training work by US forces in Africa and ongoing operations by U.S. special operations forces in country, falls in line with the department's strategy for Africa. 

That strategy, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will be to play an advisory role to African military forces via intelligence and logistical support for African-led counter terrorism operations in the region. 

"I believe the effort now ought to be to work with nations in that region to ensure that al Qaeda does not develop [a] base in Mali. But it ought to be an effort that is developed in conjunction with other countries in the region that share the same concern," Panetta told reporters in October. 

White House's national security strategy unveiled in February focused in U.S. special operations forces and counterinsurgency specialists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to ramp up operations across the globe, particularly in Africa. 

Last October, U.S. special forces were sent to Uganda to help those forces in their war against Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

In April, President Obama announced those forces would extend their mission in Uganda beyond the initial 150-day deployment ordered last October. 

That said, the Kony mission "will not be an open-ended commitment," a senior Pentagon official told a House committee shortly before Obama's announcement.