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US To Withdraw Troops From Niger, Deal Struck With Military Junta

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U.S. President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., April 19, 2024. REUTERS/Craig Hudson

According to a source who spoke to Reuters late Friday, the United States has agreed to withdraw its troops from Niger following discussions between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and the leadership of Niger.

As of last year, there were just over 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in Niger, operating from two military bases. One of these is a drone base, known as Air Base 201, which was constructed near Agadez in central Niger at a cost exceeding $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, a coup led by Niger’s army disrupted the country’s government. Before the coup, Niger had been an important security ally for both the United States and France.

However, following the coup, the new leadership in Niger aligned with the military juntas in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. They terminated military agreements with former Western allies, including Washington and Paris, withdrew from the regional political and economic group ECOWAS, and began to cultivate stronger relationships 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 be identified.

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

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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 a military accord that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the U.S. Department of Defence on its soil.

The Pentagon had said thereafter it was seeking clarification 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 U.S. 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.

With Inputs From Reuters