The United States is considering the withdrawal of troops from Niger in response to the recent coup that disposed the democratically elected government in Niamey. Two USA officials have suggested that up to half of the 1,100 troops stationed in Niger could be pulled out, though a final decision has yet to be made and the precise number remains undetermined.
The U.S. military has maintained its presence in Niger since the coup, with troops stationed at two air bases and the embassy in Niamey.
However, the transfer of troops from one base to another has posed logistical challenges, potentially necessitating a partial withdrawal.
According to three U.S. officials, the issue primarily revolves around capacity constraints. The Pentagon recently announced the relocation of troops from Air Base 101 near Niamey’s capital to Air Base 201 near Agadez due to security concerns following the military takeover.
However, Air Base 201, where the U.S. conducts drone operations, lacks the necessary capacity to accommodate all troops, thus requiring some to leave Niger.
One official suggested that the reduction of troops could commence in the coming weeks, contingent upon conditions on the ground.
The Pentagon remains committed to maintaining a military presence in Niger for as long as feasible, emphasizing the country’s crucial role in conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) flights in the region.
Niger’s strategic location enables the U.S. military to monitor violent extremist activity in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, a mission that temporarily paused in late July due to the coup but has since resumed intermittent ISR flights, according to one official familiar with the matter.
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The Biden administration has been exploring options to preserve U.S. forces and assets in Niger to continue anti-terrorism operations, even as prospects for the military junta to relinquish power to the democratically elected president have dwindled.
Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh emphasized, “Our position remains the same that we hope that the situation on the ground gets resolved diplomatically but would just reemphasize that there’s no immediate threat to USA personnel or violence on the ground.”