DAKAR, Senegal – The United States and Senegal signed an agreement Monday to ease access for U.S. troops should they need to deploy to the West African nation in the case of a humanitarian or security crisis.
The Defense Cooperation agreement "will facilitate the continued presence of the U.S. military in Senegal," said Senegal's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mankeur Ndiaye. The agreement "will also help to enhance security cooperation and further strengthen defense relations to face common security challenges in the region."
The agreement comes amid heightened extremist threats in the region following major attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Senegal has increased security efforts to counter threats as some experts have warned the country could be a target.
It also comes after the most deadly Ebola outbreak in history has abated. Ebola has killed at least 11,300 people mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since December 2013. Senegal allowed U.S. military aircraft to transport troops, health workers and equipment to Liberia during the crisis, the embassy said.
"The next shared concern might take the form of another disease outbreak, a natural disaster calling for a humanitarian response, or a terrorist threat," said U.S. Ambassador James Zumwalt. "With this agreement, the United States military and the Senegalese military can plan better together, accomplish more with joint training, and better prepare to respond in concert to risks to our shared interests."
It upgrades an existing agreement between the countries from 2001, and also provides U.S. forces access to certain facilities in Senegal and enables U.S. forces to make improvements while there, according to U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Marie Blanchard.
Senegal hosted the yearly U.S.-led counter-extremism Flintlock exercises for West African forces earlier this year.
AP writer Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.