20 Apr 2024

US to withdraw military personnel from Niger, source says

12:38 pm on 20 April 2024

By Daphne Psaledakis, Reuters

Protesters cheer Nigerien troops as they gather in front of the French Embassy in Niamey during a demonstration that followed a rally in support of Niger's junta in Niamey on July 30, 2023. Thousands of people demonstrated in front of the French embassy in Niamey on Sunday, before being dispersed by tear gas, during a rally in support of the military putschists who overthrew the elected president Mohamed Bazoum in Niger. Before the tear-gas canisters were fired, a few soldiers stood in front of the embassy to calm the demonstrators. (Photo by AFP)

Nigerian troops gather in front of the French Embassy in Niamey following a rally in support of the coup on 30 July, 2023. Photo: AFP

The United States will withdraw its troops from Niger, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters late on Friday, adding an agreement was reached between United States deputy secretary of state Kurt Campbell and Niger's leadership.

There were a little over 1000 US troops in Niger as of last year, where the US military operated out of two bases, including a drone base known as Air Base 201 built near Agadez in central Niger at a cost of more than US$100 million.

Since 2018, the base has been used to target Islamic State militants and Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an al Qaeda affiliate, in the Sahel region.

Last year, Niger's army seized power in a coup.

Until the coup, Niger had remained a key security partner of the United States and France.

But the new authorities in Niger joined juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in ending military deals with one-time Western allies like Washington and Paris, quitting the regional political and economic bloc ECOWAS and fostering closer ties with Russia.

In the coming days, there would be conversations about how that drawdown of troops will look, the source told Reuters, asking not to identified.

The source said there would still be diplomatic and economic relationships between the US and Niger despite this step.

The New York Times earlier on Friday reported more than 1000 American military personnel would leave Niger in the coming months.

Last month, Niger's ruling junta said it revoked with immediate effect a military accord that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the US Department of Defence on its soil.

The Pentagon had said thereafter it was seeking clarification about the way ahead. It added the US government had "direct and frank" conversations in Niger ahead of the junta's announcement, and was continuing to communicate with Niger's ruling military council.

Hundreds took to the streets of Niger's capital last week to demand the departure of US troops, after the ruling junta further shifted its strategy by ending the military accord with the United States and welcoming Russian military instructors.

Eight coups in West and Central Africa over four years, including in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, have prompted growing concerns over democratic backsliding in the region.

- Reuters

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