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US begins ‘slow’ withdrawal from Niger

Niamey scrapped a defense pact that allowed Washington to run a $100 million drone base in the Sahel state

The US has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Niger, the US Department of Defense Africa Command announced on Saturday in a joint statement with its Nigerien counterpart.

The first step was taken on Friday with the departure of a US Air Force Globemaster III transport plane from Air Base 101 in Niamey, the statement said. The DOD has also sent a contingent of US personnel to “provide logistical support” and “ensure efficient withdrawal.” Some of the US troops had already redeployed from Niger to their home stations, it said.

The West African state scrapped defense cooperation with Washington in March, citing the failure of the local US contingent to help Niamey fight jihadist militants that have plagued the Sahel region for decades. Nigerien PM Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine later revealed that the US also threatened Niamey with sanctions and warned it against deepening relations with Iran and Russia.

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FILE PHOTO: Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine.
African state reveals why it canceled defense deal with Washington

Niger’s new government took power after ousting pro-Western President Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023. Niamey severed ties with former colonial ruler France soon afterward. Paris completed the withdrawal of its military presence from the former colony late last year, while the US is planning to finish pulling out by this September.

The US is dedicated to completing a “safe, orderly, and responsible withdrawal,” the DOD wrote on Friday, as some in Washington have raised concerns that the pullout may mirror the botched US departure from Afghanistan in 2021.

“I fear the administration will handle this withdrawal similarly to the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Congressman Matt Gaetz said last month, calling for Washington to prioritize the safety of American troops.

READ MORE: US to withdraw troops from African states

Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali are developing cooperation as part of the Alliance of Sahel States, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the media after talks with the president of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Traore, on Wednesday. The three Sahel states will be looking for “African solutions to African problems,” he said.

June 09, 2024 at 11:16AM

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