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U.S. and Niger Announce Withdrawal of American Personnel by September

U.S. and Niger Announce Withdrawal of American Personnel by September


The withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. army personnel in Niger is underway, and all American troops will go away the West African nation by Sept. 15, the U.S. and Nigerien governments mentioned on Sunday.

The settlement, described in a joint assertion by the 2 international locations’ militaries, spells out the phrases of the pullout that the Biden administration introduced final month. It additionally signifies the start of the top of the Pentagon’s most enduring counterterrorism partnership within the tumultuous Sahel area of Africa.

A senior Pentagon official, Christopher P. Maier, and a prime U.S. officer, Lt. Gen. Dagvin R.M. Anderson, met in Niamey, Niger’s capital, this previous week with representatives of Niger’s army, led by the military chief of workers, Col. Maj. Mamane Sani Kiaou, the assertion mentioned. The assembly was meant “to coordinate the orderly and secure withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger,” it added.

The assertion, launched by the Pentagon, additionally mentioned the 2 militaries had established procedures to ease the entry and the exit of U.S. personnel, together with flight and touchdown clearances for army planes. Niger has balked at approving a few of these clearances in latest months, American officers mentioned.

In a separate assertion posted on social media, Niger’s army mentioned that “the withdrawal of American forces from Niger can be carried out with mutual respect and transparency by mid-September 2024.”

The date was consistent with what American officers had been anticipating, however turned official after the conferences final week. About 100 American personnel with urgent medical wants or household obligations, or whose jobs had been made out of date by the sooner resolution to withdraw, have left on business flights up to now week, Kelly Cahalan, a spokeswoman for the army’s Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, mentioned on Sunday.

In a convention name with reporters on Sunday afternoon, a senior Defense Department official mentioned that U.S. forces would take with all of them deadly or hazardous weapons or tools, however that different issues like housing, mills and air-conditioners can be left behind for the Nigeriens to make use of.

U.S. relations with Niger have steadily worsened because the army ousted the nation’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, final July. The Biden administration waited till October to formally declare the junta’s takeover a coup, hoping to resolve the disaster and keep away from a congressional mandate to halt financial and army support to any authorities deemed to have been put in by a army coup till democracy is restored.

Diplomatic negotiations went nowhere, nonetheless, and the junta mentioned in March that it was ending its army cooperation cope with the United States after a contentious set of conferences in Niamey with a high-level American diplomatic and army delegation. Nigerien leaders accused American officers of telling them tips on how to run their nation, an accusation that Biden administration officers rejected.

Niger’s resolution was consistent with a latest sample by international locations within the Sahel area, an arid space south of the Sahara, of breaking ties with Western international locations. Increasingly, they’re partnering with Russia as an alternative.

In early April, about 100 Russian instructors and an air-defense system immediately arrived in Niger. According to Russia’s state-owned information outlet Ria Novosti, the Russian personnel are a part of Africa Corps, the brand new paramilitary construction supposed to take the place of the Wagner Group, the army firm whose mercenaries and operations unfold in Africa below the management of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was killed in a airplane crash final yr.

Niger’s rejection of army ties with the United States follows the withdrawal of troops from France, the previous colonial energy that for the previous decade has led international counterterrorism efforts in opposition to jihadist teams in West Africa, however which has currently been perceived as a pariah within the area.

Nearly 400 American personnel work at an air base in Niamey, with the remaining 600 at U.S. Air Base 201, a six-year-old, $110 million set up within the distant metropolis of Agadez. Since the coup, the troops in Agadez have been inactive, with most of their MQ-9 Reaper drones grounded besides these flying surveillance missions to guard the U.S. personnel.

The lack of the 2 bases can be a blow to counterterrorism and broader safety within the Sahel, American officers acknowledged. Discussions are underway with coastal West African nations like Ghana, Togo and Benin, officers mentioned, however the talks are nonetheless within the very early levels.

“Those bases had been an enormous benefit to us for our strategic entry and affect, and at an operational stage as effectively,” Gen. Michael E. Langley, the top of the army’s Africa Command, mentioned in an interview final month.

The senior Defense Department official, who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate operational issues, mentioned it was potential that the Pentagon may resume coaching or different safety help at some future date, and indicated that Nigerien military officers wished to take care of a relationship with their American counterparts. But below what new phrases that will occur is unsure.

It can also be unclear what entry, if any, the United States must the sprawling base in Agadez sooner or later, and whether or not Russian advisers and maybe even Russian air forces will transfer in if Niger’s relations with the Kremlin deepen. The joint assertion launched on Sunday didn’t point out the destiny of the bases.

Ruth Maclean contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal.

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