US Troops Pull Out of Base in Niger

US Troops Pull Out of Base in Niger

( – General Abdourahmane “Omar” Tchiani, formerly the commander of Niger’s presidential guard, seized power through a military coup in July 2023, establishing a military junta to govern the West African nation. Niger became the last in a string of military coups in the Sahel region of West Africa that included Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. On Monday, July 8, US troops completed a withdrawal from one of two air bases they occupied in the country at the junta’s request after a series of stinging diplomatic setbacks.

US, French, African Union, and European Union officials condemned the coup. Yet, Dr. J. Peter Pham, a former US special envoy to the region, pointed out that the Niger and other Sahel military juntas have enjoyed strong support from their citizens because they offer greater security against terrorists than formal democratic governments.

In March, Tchiani announced that Niger would cease its participation in a military accord with the US and requested that the US remove all troops from the country after a disastrous visit by US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee. Gen. Michael Langley, US head of the African Command, joined her. The pair addressed a return to democratic rule and concerns over Niger’s negotiations with Iran to provide uranium, an abundant mineral in the country.

However, Niger officials took offense at Phee’s and Langley’s concerns and suggestions, accusing the delegation of condescension, threats of retaliation, and violating typical diplomatic protocols. US and Niger military officials began planning for an orderly withdrawal immediately after the junta made the request.

Reports have indicated that Russian and Chinese influence has grown in the Sahel region as Western influence has waned. Analysts agree that the withdrawal is creating the most significant impact on the Biden administration’s reputation rather than a practical effect on the US military’s ability to operate in the region.

On Monday, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, the director of Strategy, Engagement and Programs for the US African Command, expressed his gratitude while reflecting on both “the safe, orderly and responsible withdrawal” of troops from Air Base 101 in Niamey, Niger, and “15 years of security cooperation and shared sacrifice” combating terrorist interests in the region with Niger military forces.

The US African Command also announced its intention to withdraw the remainder of troops from Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, by September 15, 2024.

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