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US troops will withdraw from Niger later this year

The US Department of Defense and the Nigerien government said on Sunday that US troops would leave Niger by September 15. US military bases in the country supported counter-terrorism operations with surveillance in the West African region for years before the country’s… military junta seized power. Both countries agreed to maintain the protection of U.S. forces during the withdrawal and facilitate their withdrawal from the country through overflights and military landing permits and other means. According to a letter from US President Joe Biden to Congress, approximately 650 US military personnel were stationed in Niger as of December 2023.

Why are US troops withdrawing? Last summer, the Nigerien army removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power and took control of the country. The US State Department condemned an attempted coup on July 26, 2023 and called for the release of President Bazoum. In October, the US Department of Defense said there was a suspension of security cooperation and counter-terrorism operations with leaders in Niger following the coup. A few months later, in March, the spokesman for the Nigerien Armed Forces, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, said the Nigerien military junta had broken a military cooperation agreement with the United States.

The United States said just days after Abdramane’s announcement that it was aware that Niger had broken the countries’ military status agreements and said it was seeking clarification on what that meant. During conversations with Nigerien officials at the time, U.S. Defense Department officials also expressed concerns about Niger’s growing cooperation with Russia and Iran.

What happens now? The two countries said on Sunday they would continue to cooperate in areas of common interest. Senior U.S. defense and military officials later told reporters that it remains uncertain what cooperation will look like in the future.

Dig deeper: Read Onize Ohikere’s report about The world and everything in it podcast from earlier this year about other African countries lifting sanctions imposed on Niger after the military coup.