By Carlo Muñoz - 01/02/13 11:15 PM EST
While the satellites included under the proposed deal between Washington and Algiers would be U.S.-built, it remains unclear whether the satellites would be operated by Algeria or under the command of American military and intelligence officials in the region.
Algeria, whose southern border sits alongside northern Mali, has been reluctant to allow American intelligence and counterterrorism officials operate in and around its territory.
Algiers has repeatedly denied U.S. requests to allow American drones based in Morocco and the West African nation of Burkina Faso to fly through Algerian airspace and into Mali to track AQIM forces there.
But Algeria's consideration of allowing U.S. spy satellites to operate within its borders could open the door to American drones into northern Mali.
Aside from gaining valuable access to al Qaeda's operations in northern Mali, the deal would also allow U.S. military and intelligence officials to monitor the vast, ungoverned territories in the Sahel region, which spans across central Africa.
The United Nations recently authorized Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to help Mali draft a counterterrorism plan to regain control of the north, after AQIM forces took control in the wake of successful coup in the country.
French diplomats 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 in October after recent efforts by the Malian military to flush out the group proved unsuccessful.
For their part, Pentagon officials have denied any effort to begin conducting unilateral military operations in Mali to oust AQIM and its affiliates from the country.
That said, the first in a slew of Army units designed to expand American military presence across the globe is heading to Africa Command, tasked with forging and increasing military cooperation with U.S. allies on the continent.
Members of the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division will rotate into Africa Command's headquarters in Europe "and other regions to bolster our alliances and partnerships," Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in October.
Joint Special Operations Command-Trans Sahara, which is part of Special Operations Command-Africa based in Germany, has been operating in Mali and the larger Sahel region for a number of years.