Pentagon Orders US Soldiers To Withdraw From Niger Republic

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The Pentagon this week formally ordered all 1,000 U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Niger, a blow to the Biden administration’s effort to counterterrorism and Russian influence in West Africa.

The U.S. announced in April that it would begin discussing plans for “an orderly and responsible withdrawal” after Niger’s military junta declared it would revoke its military cooperation deal with Washington. But U.S. officials have continued to negotiate with the junta over the terms of the withdrawal and whether there was any possibility some American troops could stay.

Hopes for an agreement dimmed this week when the Defense Department directed the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops in Niger to leave the country over the next several months, according to a U.S. official, who was granted anonymity to speak ahead of an announcement.

The timeline could still shift, the official cautioned, and congressional negotiations are ongoing.

Troops will move to other locations within the region from which they can still operate, the official said. The drawdown — which could still be reversed until it is complete — does not include embassy security personnel.

The move upends years of counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel. Niger, particularly a U.S.-built drone base at Agadez, had been a linchpin of that strategy until the country’s military overthrew the government in a coup last summer.

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The U.S. partnership with Niger was also a bulwark against Russia’s growing influence in the region. Since the coup, Russian forces, including former members of the Wagner group, have begun to flow into the country. Between 60 and 100 Russian fighters have been living at the same air base as American troops in the capital of Niamey, Base 101, for weeks.

While U.S. officials say the Russian troops do not pose an immediate threat to the Americans, officials are worried that the fighters could go rogue and take actions to antagonize U.S. soldiers, POLITICO reported.

A U.S. delegation is in Niger having conversations with the junta about the withdrawal. Deputy Secretary of State Molly Phee, along with senior leaders at the Department of State, Department of Defense, U.S. Africa Command, the U.S. Embassy in Niger and others, are engaged in “ongoing frank discussions with the CNSP authorities in Niger,” according to a State Department spokesperson.

“We do not want to speculate and get ahead of the discussions. “

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