President Obama notified Congress today that there are now “approximately” 100 U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger to aid in the fight against Islamist forces in neighboring Mali.
Per the War Powers Act, Obama sent the notification to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Leahy (D-Vt.).
“On February 20, 2013, the last elements of a deployment of approximately 40 additional U.S. military personnel entered Niger with the consent of the Government of Niger. This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region,” Obama wrote.
“The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”
Obama said he directed the deployment “in furtherance of U.S. national security interests, and pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.”
Secretary of State John Kerry visits Paris on Wednesday “for meetings with senior French officials on our ongoing regional and global cooperation,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier this week.
“And of course, we expect international support for Mali will be a central subject there,” she added.
There are currently about 4,500 French troops in Mali right now who have pushed back Islamist forces that had taken over much of the country. France has been firm about withdrawing those troops in early March and handing security over to the U.N.-backed African military force (AFISMA), which has about 3,800 boots on the ground in Mali.