Biden To Withdraw Troops From Niger As Region Increasingly Turns To Russia

In what is simultaneously a humiliating setback for the Deep State and a welcome victory for noninterventionist American taxpayers, the White House on Friday announced that US military forces will be withdrawn from Niger over the coming months. The move comes after Niger's mid-March declaration that was ending its military cooperation with the United States.  

Following Niger's announcement, US military officials scrambled in vain to salvage the relationship. At stake: The $110 million Air Base 201, which the New York Times characterized as the Pentagon's "most strategic military asset in sub-Saharan Africa." Said to be a key base for counterterrorism, it was a major hub for drone operations in the region.

US-Niger relations took a major downturn with a July 2023 coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum in favor of a military junta. The new government was increasingly keen on Russia, something that triggered bitter complaints from US officials. Things deteriorated further when Western intelligence accused Niger of engaging in secret talks to give Iran access to its uranium.

In a March statement, junta spokesman Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane said, "Niger regrets the intention of the American delegation to deny the sovereign Nigerien people the right to choose their partners and types of partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism."

The Russians may well take the keys to Air Base 201. Bringing an air-defense system with them, more than 100 Russian instructors arrived in the country last week. 

According to Russia’s state-owned news outlet Ria Novosti, the Russian personnel are part of Africa Corps, the new paramilitary structure intended to take the place of the Wagner group, the military company whose mercenaries and operations spread in Africa under the leadership of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last year. -New York Times

At public demonstrations, Nigeriens have been seen waving Russian flags and shouting slogans denouncing US imperialism. Russian flags have even become a trendy item to display in everyday life, emblematic of a major geopolitical transition. “The Russian flag has become a symbol of resistance in West Africa, affiliated with anti-West and anti-French attitudes,” Kyle Walter, research head at Logically, told the New York Times. 

Backers of Niger's ruling junta march alongside a car adorned with the Russian flag (Issifou Djibo/EPA via Shutterstock and New York Times)

Indeed, Niger isn't the only country in the Sahel region that's warming up to Russia. Burkina Faso and Mali have also sought President Putin's help in battling ISIS and Al Qaeda insurgents. As Andrew Korybko explained at Substackthe Pentagon is likely to pivot to Ivory Coast -- aka Cote D'Ivoire -- where its drones will be welcome at French bases. "A complementary presence in Senegal can’t be ruled out either but nothing will be decided until after its delayed presidential elections are held later this month," he added. 

There are approximately 1,100 US service members in Niger. In 2017, members of Congress were surprised to learn that soldiers and airmen had been deployed there. They found out in the worst possible way: After four US Army Special Forces soldiers were killed there after being ambushed by ISIS militants. 

The four soldiers killed in Niger in 2017: From left, SSGT Bryan Black, SGT La David Johnson, SSGT Dustin Wright, SSGT Jeremiah Johnson

Even uberhawk and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham had no idea. "I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger,” he said on Meet the Press. “They are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing.”

Last October, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill that would force Biden to withdraw American forces from the country. “If we’re going to send someone’s son or daughter to a foreign country, if they are going to risk their life, Congress should vote on them being there,” Paul told Defense News. “They’re ruled by a military junta led by a guy that we trained in democracy training over here.” His bill was defeated by an 86-11 margin. 

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