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Behind the U.S. Military’s Withdrawal From Niger

Written by Rebecca Oxtot

Edited by Eliza Dorton and Annika Lilja


Image under Public Domain

On April 25th U.S. Ambassadors met with Nigerian officials in Niamey to discuss the safe withdrawal of U.S. troops from Niger. This marks the end of the U.S.'s decade-long military presence in Niger, according to ABC News. The U.S. has long utilized Niger as a base for anti-terrorism in the region, with the support of the democratically elected President Mohammed Bazoum. However, since Niger’s coup last July, U.S. operations in the country have been on hold. Niger’s coup was initiated by the Presidential Guard General Abdourahamane Tchiani, who cited the rise in violent Islamist groups as the cause of the uprising, reported the BBC.


Niger’s request for U.S. withdrawal came in March, one week after a delegation from Washington went to Niamey to speak with the Junta leaders. (The term junta refers to a government that gained power through a coup d'état.) According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. delegation raised “concerns over Niger’s potential relationships with Russia and Iran, as well as the status of U.S. forces in the country.”


Niger’s military spokesperson Col Amadou Abdramane explained the request for U.S. troops to withdraw in a statement on national television, describing the U.S. presence as illegal and violating Niger’s constitution. He also alleged that the U.S. delegation accused Niger of making a secret deal to supply uranium to Iran, and further suggested that the delegation voiced objections to the allies that Niger was aligning with, according to BBC News.


While Niger denies allegations that they have been working on secret deals to supply Iran with uranium, the countries have fostered closer relations since Niger’s coup. In January of this year, Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine met with the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that President Raisi praised Niger’s post-coup leaders, stating that they had a “bright future.”


Since requesting the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Russia has also become increasingly involved in Niger. This April, Russian Africa Corps soldiers have been deployed into the nation as a part of the Nigerien-Russian military cooperation agreements. The BBC reported that Russia reported arriving with state-of-the-art air defense systems, which they will install and teach Nigeriens how to use.


Niger’s transition away from its Western allies and towards Russia and Iran is part of a broader regional trend. Mali and Burkina Faso similarly expelled French troops after their own coups and turned instead to the Russian Wagner Group, a private military force funded by the Russian state. This raised concerns for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc that aims to promote economic cooperation and address security issues. Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali were all suspended from the bloc due to military takeovers, and announced their withdrawal from ECOWAS earlier this year, forming their own Alliance of Sahel States. The president of the National Council for the Safeguard of Niger has stated that the alliance is a “path of sovereignty” for the nations, reported AP News.


In light of Niger’s usage of Russian troops, growing talks with Iran, planned withdrawal of U.S. troops and newly formed alliance; Niger’s junta leaders have shifted the political balance of the region further towards Russia and its proxies and away from the West, raising concerns of the stability of the region and the future of its uranium resources.


 

Sources:


“Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh Holds an Off-Camera, On the Record Press Briefing” US Department of Defense, 18 March, 2024


Ogao, Emma and Winsor, Morgan. “US to withdraw troops from Niger after military deal revoked.” abc News, 25 Apr. 2024 https://abcnews.go.com/International/us-plans-withdraw-troops-niger/story?id=109568976


“Niger’s junta revokes military agreement with US” BBC News, 17 March 2024 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68590531


“President Raisi: Niger to see brilliant future by relying on own capacity” Islamic Republic News Agency, 25 Jan. 2024 https://en.irna.ir/news/85365350/President-Raisi-Niger-to-see-brilliant-future-by-relying-on


Ewokor et. al “Russian troops arrive in Niger as military agreement begins” BBC News, Apr. 12 2024 


Asadu, Chinedu. “A newly formed alliance between coup-hit countries in Africa’s Sahel is seen as a tool for legitimacy” AP News, 24 Nov. 2023 https://apnews.com/article/sahel-coups-niger-tchiani-mali-burkina-faso-insecurity-e96627c700aa4fcf8d060dd9d2d16667



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