July 17, 2024

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What Happened in Niger?

US Military Drone

Local Protests Lead To U.S. Troops Potentially Packing Up and Shipping Out of Newly Built Billion Dollar Drone Air Base.

The decision to withdraw more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel from Niger, after a decade of investment totaling over $1 billion, marks a significant strategic shift. Officials reveal to CBS News that this move, though reluctantly undertaken by the U.S., is poised to deal a substantial blow to American counterterrorism endeavors in a region fraught with escalating threats.

Niger, a landlocked nation, finds itself encircled by volatile neighbors where local militias have formed alliances with global terrorist factions. A seasoned U.S. military figure, who has served extensively in Niger, laments to CBS News that the impending withdrawal constitutes “a devastating blow” not only to regional counterterrorism operations but also to the broader prospects of peace in the area.

“Our soldiers have dedicated years to enhancing local capacities and providing essential training to regional forces,” the official emphasizes. “This setback resonates deeply across all fronts.”

In the aftermath of a military coup in July 2023, Niger’s leadership signaled a divergence from U.S. efforts aimed at shepherding the nation toward democratic elections. Instead, they pivoted towards seeking security assistance from Russia and exploring potential deals with Iran concerning Niger’s uranium reserves.

In March, General Michael Langley, head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, alerted U.S. Congress members to the mounting influence of the Russian Federation in several nations, stressing the critical juncture at hand.

Just prior to Langley’s testimony, his diplomatic mission to Niger yielded unexpected outcomes. Shortly after his departure, Niger’s military spokesperson announced the immediate suspension of the country’s joint military agreement with the U.S. via national television broadcast, signaling a rupture in bilateral security cooperation.

Efforts to salvage the relationship encountered hurdles, with Nigerien officials firmly indicating the untenability of continued security collaboration. This stance follows Niger’s expulsion of French forces post-coup, underscoring a broader trend of seeking alternative partnerships.

In January, Niger’s military junta deepened ties with Russia, culminating in the recent arrival of Russian military trainers and advanced air defense systems aboard a transport plane in the capital, Niamey.

Against a backdrop of frequent coups in the region, neighboring nations, including Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, have voiced solidarity with Niger’s new military leadership. The geopolitical landscape surrounding Niger continues to evolve amidst shifting alliances and power dynamics.