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US Quietly Trying To Keep Troops In African Country That Wants To Kick Them Out

Photo by Diego González / Unsplash

By Micaela Burrow, The Daily Caller News Foundation | March 22, 2024

The U.S. is working behind the scenes with the Nigerien government to negotiate a way to keep U.S. troops in the country after junta leaders declared the American military footprint “illegal,” The Washington Post reported.

The Nigerien government that came to power in July, in a nation historically viewed as an ally and partner in counter-terrorism efforts, announced Saturday plans to end military cooperation with the U.S., according to the Post, citing U.S. officials. Days later, however, “dynamic” talks are underway to determine whether and how the U.S. can retain a military presence in some capacity, even at a reduced level.

The talks appear to contradict the junta’s unequivocal public opposition to the U.S. troop presence. But one U.S. official said the Biden administration believes the threat is “less some sort of principled stand against U.S. assistance than it was a fit of pique over the deep concerns we expressed to them last week about the direction they’re moving on a number of fronts” in comments to the Post.

Niger regularly hosts about 1,000 U.S. troops and and operates a $110 million air base used to control drone operations against Islamist militant groups in the region, according to the Post.

Amadou Abdramane, the spokesman for the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP), said American officials displayed a “condescending attitude” during a visit to Niamey during days of meetings and sought to control Niger’s foreign relations, including pressure to cut off engagement with China and Russia, according to the Post. On state TV Saturday, he declared that the U.S. military presence violates Niger’s constitution and, effective immediately, the government would end all security cooperation with the U.S.

Nigerien leaders reportedly agreed to allow Iran access to uranium reserves, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Biden administration had privately raised concerns about the deal, according to the Post.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said on Thursday the CNSP had yet to formally ask U.S. troops to leave after questioning from lawmakers, The New York Times reported.

“They’re still operating as they were from July, when the initial coup did happen,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said later that day at a press conference.

The Department of Defense (DOD) initially paused all security cooperation activities with Niger’s military after elements of the country’s military claimed to have overthrown the democratically-elected President Mohamen Bazoum.

“We’ve consolidated our presence to 201. From an interagency perspective, from the department and State Department as well, there are ongoing conversations with the CNSP to discuss the path forward,” she added, but declined to go into further detail.

Troops continue to conduct surveillance flights for self-defense purposes only, she said.

The Pentagon and the National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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