(ABC NEWS) The U.S. is establishing a Predator drone base in Niger that will assist the French military operation in Northern Mali but could also mark the beginning of a longer term surveillance mission in Western Africa.

President Obama notified senior Congressional leaders Friday that a force of approximately 100 American military personnel is now in Niger to set up the base.

In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Obama said the personnel had finished deploying to Niger on Tuesday with the consent of the government of Niger.

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