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US to withdraw troops from Niger: officials

April 20, 2024

US officials said more than 1,000 of their troops stationed in Niger will leave soon. Niger's military leaders have been growing closer to Russia since seizing power in a coup last year.

Protesters demanding soldiers from the United States Army leave Niger.
There have been protests in Niger against US troop presenceImage: AFP

The US has agreed to withdraw its troops from Niger, officials said.

Washington has more than 1,000 troops in the West African nation and also operates a major drone base there. 

US officials told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity that a call to remove troops by the leader of Niger's military junta, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, was accepted by US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

A US delegation is expected to travel to the country's capital, Niamey, in the coming days to organize the withdrawal, officials said. Niger's state television announced the visit would happen next week, but the US State Department has not made any official announcement.

Why are US soldiers in Niger?

Niger was an important base for the US and France in their war against jihadists in West Africa. The US also built a $100 million (€93 million) drone base known as Air Base 201 near the central city of Agadez.

The base has been used to target Islamic State militants and Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an al-Qaida affiliate, in the Sahel region since 2018. However, in recent times it was being used for surveillance to protect US troops.

Niger's army seized power in a coup last year, ousting democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. Since then, Niger's ties with its western allies have suffered. 

The junta has already ended cooperation with former colonizer France and forced French troops to leave.

While the junta initially seemed keen to maintain ties with the US, relations soured after US President Joe Biden insisted on civilian rule and the release of Bazoum, who has been imprisoned since the military takeover.

Last week, hundreds of people in Niger protested against the US troop presence in their country.

The US military withdrawal has been expected for some time and works in favor of Russia, which has been working to grow its presence in Africa, especially in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Russian military instructors arrived in Niger this month with an air defense system and other equipment.
tg/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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