Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has confirmed reports that US aircraft drones will use Tunisian military bases for the “benefit of Tunisia.”
In an interview aired on local TV, Essebsi confirmed the presence of 70 US military personnel to train local forces to conduct drone operations in neighbouring countries, particularly Libya, against Daesh strongholds.
Having previously denied reports that Washington would use its military bases, Essebsi said the presence of Americans would be used to counter “the existence of the terrorist threat coming from the concerned areas,” in reference to neighbouring Libya. He added that everything possible must be done “to protect Tunisia, and to avoid a de facto Ben Guerdane”, referencing the terrorist attack earlier this year in the border city.
When asked about Algeria’s position and the sensitivity the American military presence would hold for Algeria, Essebsi revealed: “Algeria is not interested in American planes flying in unmanned areas. We will have to proactively notify the Algerian party.”
He added that Tunisia does not have any “ambiguity in relations with Algeria, and we are cooperating in the fight against terrorism.”
Essebsi has continually denied the presence of a US military base when media sources referenced the Pentagon official source citing the United States using the military base in Tunisia to operate drones to the Libyan city of Sirte last month.
According to the Pentagon, Washington had used the military base in Tunisia in accordance with a military agreement signed in June last year which grants Tunisia the possibility of operating with the US as a military partner outside of NATO.