An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle taxies after landing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, Nov. 10, 2008. (Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson / Air Force)
France is deploying MQ-9 Reapers to Mali in a bid to crush al Qaeda insurgents, according to the newspaper The Hill.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the first two Reapers will be conducting strikes Mali by the end of this year. France bought two Reapers in a deal sealed between Paris and Washington in June. Rather than wait for General Atomics to manufacture them, France is buying them from the U.S. Air Force, according to French sources cited in Defense News.
The unarmed Reapers will be used against al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, al Qaeda's West African arm. AQIM, allied with Taureg rebels, seized northern Mali until French troops drove them out earlier this year. France turned over military operations to a force of United Nations and African peacekeepers, though there are doubts that the force will be able to defeat AQIM.