US to withdraw military personnel from Niger

Niger AFP - -
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 US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Niger's leadership.

There were a little over 1,000 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 $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, opens new tab. 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, opens new tab, quitting the regional political and economic bloc Ecowas and fostering closer ties with Russia.

In the coming days, there will 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 1,000 American military personnel will leave Niger in the coming months.

Last month, Niger's ruling junta said it revoked with immediate effect, opens new tab a military accord that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the U.S. Department of Defense on its soil.

The Pentagon had said thereafter it was seeking clarification, opens new tab about the way ahead. It added the U.S. 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, but also Gabon, have prompted growing concerns over democratic backsliding in the region.

 (with Reuters)