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Russian military enters Niger air base hosting U.S. troops amid diplomatic tensions

Russian military enters Niger air base hosting U.S. troops amid diplomatic tensions
By Yagiz Efe Parmaksiz
May 3, 2024 1:13 AM

Russian military soldiers invade an air facility in Niger that houses American forces, following the decision by the junta in Niger to remove American soldiers

In an interview with Reuters, a senior U.S. defense official said that Russian military soldiers had invaded an air facility in Niger that is now housing American forces. This comes after the decision by the junta in Niger to remove American soldiers from the nation.

The United States has been ordered to remove its approximately 1,000 military soldiers from Niger by the military authorities in charge of the West African nation.

Previously, Washington’s operations against insurgents—who have resulted in a large number of fatalities and displacement in the region—had Niger as a vital ally.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the senior U.S. defense official said that Russian soldiers are using a different hangar at Airbase 101, which is close to Diori Hamani International Airport in the capital city of Niamey, Niger, rather than integrating with American forces.

The Russian military’s action brings American and Russian forces closer together, intensifying their military and political competition. This is especially true in light of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Moreover, it casts doubt on what will happen to American outposts in Niger after withdrawal.

In spite of the difficulties, the U.S. defense official communicated that the current state of affairs is thought to be temporary.

In response to requests for comment on the issue, neither the Russian nor the Nigerien embassies in Washington have yet to answer.

When political changes in some African countries favored withdrawal from Western influences, the United States and its allies were forced to withdraw troops from those countries. In addition to the likely withdrawal from Niger, U.S. soldiers have been forced out of Chad and French forces have been driven out of Mali and Burkina Faso in recent days.

In parallel, Russia has been aggressively fostering relations with African countries in an effort to project an image of the non-colonial alliance. With the Wagner Group mercenary group sent to fight terrorists, Mali, for example, has become one of Russia’s closest African allies.

Due to U.S. military and financial backing for Ukraine throughout the conflict, which is already in its second year, tensions between Russia and the United States have greatly increased.

About Russian military personnel in Niger, the U.S. official said that Nigerien officials notified the Biden administration of about 60 Russian troops in the nation, but this number is yet unconfirmed.

After the coup, some US military personnel were moved from Airbase 101 to Airbase 201 in Agadez. It’s presently unknown how much US military hardware is still present at Airbase 101.

Since 2018, the US-built Airbase 201, which cost more than $100 million, has been crucial in using armed drones to target JNIM fighters in central Niger who are associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

If U.S. soldiers and intelligence assets are not present in the Sahel, Washington continues to be concerned about the possible spread of terrorists in the area.

The decision by Niger to demand the withdrawal of American forces comes after a mid-March meeting in Niamey where top American officials voiced worries about the impending deployment of Russian forces and information that Iran was reportedly looking for raw commodities, including uranium, in the nation.

The American statement to Nigerian officials was not meant to be an ultimatum, but it was apparent that American and Russian personnel could not cohabit on the same base. This was a stance that the Nigerian authorities did not agree with.

As a result, a two-star general from the United States has been sent to Niger to help with a prudent and professional withdrawal. Though final decisions on the U.S. forces’ presence in Niger have not yet been made, the current plan calls for their return to the home bases of U.S. Africa Command, which are in Germany.

Source: Reuters

Last Updated:  Jun 3, 2024 4:56 PM