According to media reports, the US government has agreed to withdraw around 1,000 military personnel from Niger in the coming months. “The loss of the base in Niger complicates the Pentagon’s ability to achieve U.S. security objectives in the region,” the Wall Street Journal quoted a senior U.S. military official as saying. Commentators spoke of a strategic victory for Russia.

“Until last year’s military coup, Niger was the cornerstone of Washington’s counterterrorism strategy in the region. US Green Berets advised local commandos on combat missions against what has now become the world’s most active Islamist insurgency. US drones provided surveillance of the insurgents’ activities “, the paper continued. The withdrawal will accelerate contingency plans to shift the US strategy to defeat the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia where they are strongest. In the future it will be an attempt to prevent the militants from penetrating neighboring countries along the West African coast.

Niger, with its 1,000 US soldiers, is by far the largest US base in West Africa and their withdrawal could leave only a few dozen soldiers spread across Benin and Chad, the paper continued. The withdrawal also calls into question the status of a $110 million (around 94 million euros) US air base in Agadez, which is only six years old.

Military junta demands withdrawal

With the withdrawal, the Biden administration is responding to a demand from the West African country’s military junta. This canceled a military cooperation agreement with the USA in mid-March. Junta spokesman Amadou Abdramane justified the exit with “condescending behavior” and an alleged threat of reprisals from a US delegation. Until then, the agreement had allowed U.S. soldiers and civilian Defense Department employees to operate in the country.

Since the end of July 2023, Niger has been led by a military junta. Before that, the country was considered the last democratic partner of European states and the USA in the interior of the Sahel region. It has been a close ally against terrorism and illegal migration to Europe. The coup triggered a serious diplomatic crisis in the region.

Neighboring countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso have also turned away from the USA and Europe and are moving ever closer to Russia. At the beginning of April, Russia sent Niger an air defense system and 100 military trainers.

Report in the Washington Post