The United States and Senegal signed a co-operation agreement on Monday to ease the deployment of American troops to the West African nation to counter humanitarian crises, natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
“Terrorism knows no borders and it’s important for everyone to co-operate,” James Zumwalt, US ambassador to Senegal, said during a joint news conference in Dakar with Senegal’s Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye.
“We believe this agreement will help the US military and the Senegalese military reinforce our co-operation to deal with threats to our common interests.”
Around 40 US Department of Defence personnel are currently stationed in Senegal, according to US Africa Command. The U. embassy in Dakar said that number would not increase under the deal.
“This agreement is about access, is about coming when there is an urgent desire and when both sides agree,” Zumwalt said.
It sets out the rights and responsibilities of future US access to Senegalese facilities for joint training and possible troop deployments.
Foreign Minister Ndiaye said the pact was the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and would bolster Senegal’s ability to respond to growing challenges.
“Crises are not always predictable, that’s why this agreement is a long-term agreement,” he said.
Senegal faces a growing threat from jihadist groups following a string of deadly attacks on neighbouring countries claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The group has made clear Senegal is in its sights due to its close ties to France, which has some 3 500 soldiers fighting with regional armies against Islamist militants in West Africa.
The US military used Senegal as a staging post from 2014 to transport troops, health workers and supplies to West Africa to combat an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.