The U.S. Africa Command confirmed in an announcement Nov. 1 that the Air Force has a new base in Niger. The base is designed to host armed drones and other small aircraft from a converted airport in Agadez, close to the capital of Niger. U.S. forces have been operating out of the international airport in the vicinity for quite some time.

This base, which is only known as 201, is shrouded in secrecy and very little has been discussed about it its construction and armament capabilities. We know it exists and it is being actively used as missions began operating the same week that the announcement was made. So the question becomes why would the Air Force create a base in an obscure patch of African desert when the U.S. isn't involved in a conflict in the area?

The truth of the matter is that the U.S. has multiple assets on the African continent; Djibouti, on the horn of Africa, hosts a robust 18,600 troops across the country. The area around Niger, which is approximately 2,000 miles from the main garrison of U.S. troops, is a terrorist breeding ground. Air Base 201 is centrally located and is poised to carry the fight to extremist militants throughout the entire region that spans the width of the African continent south of the Sahara and including parts of Mali, Sudan and Chad.

U.S. Marines in Djibouti
U.S. Marines take part in a military drill on the Gulf of Tadjoura beach in Djibouti on March 23, 2016. SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

In a report by the Air Force Times, Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces in Africa, said: “The site was chosen specifically for that geographic advantage.”

A source confirmed to the International Business Times that extremist groups and their offshoots are still very active in the area around Niger and that fighting them here is the best way. The groups had flooded into this area during conflicts in other countries. Also some extremist groups have used the area to regroup during miltiary campaigns in the Middle East.

The Air Force Times report confirms that there are 11 such terrorist offshoots active in the area, including ISIS, al-Qaida, and Boko Haram. The Air Force is keeping with its mission to vigilantly combat terrorism on a global scale by operating in areas such as this and disrupting the networks and groups to help avoid their gaining any strength.

The base has a 6,200-foot runway that allows most lightweight aircraft including cargo planes to operate out of it. There will be no media coverage of the base or its secretive missions but it is safe to say that a base such as this will provide a foothold for the U.S. in Africa for a long time to come.