Pentagon says US troops and equipment will leave Niger by mid-September: NPR

Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta gather for a protest in Niamey, Niger, on August 3, 2023.

Sam Mednick/AP


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Sam Mednick/AP


Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta gather for a protest in Niamey, Niger, on August 3, 2023.

Sam Mednick/AP

WASHINGTON – US troops ordered to leave Niger by the West African nation’s ruling junta will be withdrawn by mid-September, the Pentagon and Nigerian security officials said Sunday.

The timeline was the result of four days of talks between the countries’ security officials in the capital, Niamey. Joint Statement.

Niger’s decision to pull out U.S. forces was a blow to U.S. military operations in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara desert where groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group operate.

US troops and some gear have already started leaving the country, a senior military official and a senior security official told reporters on Sunday. Officials said the plan is to remove all dangerous, hazardous or classified equipment before the last US troops leave, but that items too expensive to fly out could be left for use by the Nigerian military.

Officials said the U.S. would leave behind infrastructure built over years to support the roughly 1,000 troops stationed there to carry out counterterrorism operations. Fewer than 1,000 US troops are still in Niger, mostly at an air base near Agadez, about 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital.

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The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details of the withdrawal.

Officials have called Niger an “anchor” in U.S. counterterrorism efforts over the past decade, and they are still looking at options for how to fill that gap. Although US troops are no longer on the ground, officials said they hope to continue working with the Nigerian military in counter-terrorism operations in the future.

Military cooperation was strained last July after mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president. A few months later, the ruling junta ordered the withdrawal of French forces and turned to the Russian mercenary Wagner for security assistance.

Officials said they had no indication that the Wagner Group might increase its influence over the Nigerian military in the absence of American personnel.

In October, Washington officially declared the military takeover a coup, prompting US laws restricting military support and aid to Niger.

Washington until recently considered Niger a key partner and ally in a region wracked by coups in recent years, investing millions of dollars in the Agadez base, which has been critical to US counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. The United States invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military in 2013.

The Pentagon has also said it will now relocate most of the nearly 100 US troops stationed in neighboring Chad. But talks are expected to resume next month on renegotiating the deal that allows US troops to remain in Chad.

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