News reports say the United States is preparing to establish a base for drones in northwest Africa to boost surveillance of Islamist extremist groups.
Reports quote U.S. officials, on the condition of anonymity, who say the base will likely be located in Niger.
They say if the plan is approved, the base could have up to 300 U.S. military personnel.
Niger is the eastern neighbor of Mali where French and Malian troops are now battling Islamist militants.
The New York Times, which first reported the story, quotes one American military official who said the impetus for the base is the conflict in Mali, but added the drone base would also benefit U.S. intelligence and surveillance in the wider region.
The United States has just one permanent military base in Africa – in Djibouti – which is about 5,000 kilometers from Mali.