Pentagon wants to keep troops in Niger as junta orders withdrawal

The Pentagon is working with Nigerien officials to find ways for U.S. troops to remain in the country, which is a key base for Niger’s counterterrorism operations. sub-saharan africa — directed them to leave over the weekend.

Last week, senior U.S. officials including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Fee, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Celeste Wallander and U.S. Africa Command Commander Gen. Michael Langley The delegation traveled to Niger to meet with members of the military junta.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singer said Monday that U.S. officials had “lengthy and direct” discussions with military government officials, in part because of concerns about potential ties to Niger with Russia and Iran.

Niger’s military junta leads joint security operation to combat extremist violence

“We are in trouble on the path that Niger is on,” Singh said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the United States was “closely monitoring Russian defense activities there” to “assess and mitigate potential risks to U.S. personnel, interests and assets.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (right) speaks during a meeting with Latvian Defense Minister Andris Spruetz (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, March 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolfe)

On Saturday, after the meeting, junta spokesman Major Amadou Abdoulamane said it was illegal for U.S. aircraft to fly over Nigerien territory in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Insa Garba Saidou, a local activist who assists Niger’s military rulers with communications, criticized the United States for forcing the junta to choose between strategic partners.

“U.S. bases and civilian personnel can no longer remain on Nigerien soil,” he told reporters Associated Press.

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Singh said the U.S. was aware of the March 16 statement “announcing the termination of the Status of Forces Agreement between Niger and the United States. We are seeking clarification through diplomatic channels. These are ongoing discussions and we have no further information” on this one time to share. “

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the discussion was prompted by Niger’s “trajectory.”

“We are in contact with the transitional authorities to seek clarification on their comments and to discuss additional next steps,” Patel said.

The junta, which has largely controlled Niger since mutinous soldiers overthrew the country’s elected president in July, asked French troops to leave months later.

In December, there were still about 650 U.S. soldiers performing missions in Niger, most of which were concentrated in a base far away from Niamey, the capital of Niger. Singh said the total number of personnel still in the country was about 1,000, including civilians and contractors.

The Niger base is critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel and has been used for manned and unmanned surveillance operations, although Singer said the only drone flights being conducted so far were for force protection.

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In the Sahel region, the United States also supports local ground forces, including accompanying them on missions. However, such accompanying missions have been scaled back since 2017, when a U.S. military was killed during a joint operation in Niger.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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