US Military Desperately Seeking To Stay In Niger Despite Order To Leave

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Mar 21, 2024 - 12:00 AM

The Pentagon is desperately seeking to stay in Niger despite the military-led government telling US troops to leave in the wake of accusations from American officials that Niger could be poised to transfer uranium to Iran. Niger was outraged at the allegations and rejected them.

"The Pentagon is working with Niger officials, seeking a way for U.S. troops to stay in the country — a key base for counterterrorism operations in sub-Saharan Africa — following a weekend directive that they leave," The Associated Press reports.

MQ-9 Reaper drone, DoD file image

Spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the US is seeking "clarification" from Niger officials and is still engaged in lengthy and direct” discussions with the junta leaders. Washington has warned the West African nation against forging deeper ties with 'rogue' actors like Russian and Iran. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said that the Biden administration is "closely monitoring the Russian defense activities" there in order "to assess and mitigate potential risk to U.S. personnel, interests and assets." Wagner Group is one major Russian mercenary outfit which has made deep inroads into the region.

Over the weekend, Niger's military-led government which is called the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) declared US flights over Niger territory to be "illegal"

Last year's coup in the country saw a military-led government come to power, which from the start signaled rough and uncertain times ahead for US-Niger relations. A Saturday statement by Nigerien 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."

This charge of the US not respecting the West African nation's sovereignty comes in reaction to recent Western intelligence claims that Niger is engaged in secret talks and deal-making to grant Iran access to its uranium. Singh in a Monday briefing had said, "We were troubled on the path that Niger is on."

According to the latest back-and-forth between junta leaders and the Pentagon:

"The American bases and civilian personnel cannot stay on Nigerien soil any longer," he [Insa Garba Saidou, an advisor to Niger's generals] told The Associated Press.

Singh said the U.S. was aware of the March 16 statement "announcing the end of the status of forces agreement between Niger and the United States. We are working through diplomatic channels to seek clarification. These are ongoing discussions and we don’t have more to share at this time." State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the discussions were prompted by Niger’s "trajectory."

"We are in touch with transition authorities to seek clarification of their comments and discuss additional next steps," Patel said.

American officials are now worried about the major drone base only recently built at a cost of $110 million called Air Base 201, which was crucial for Pentagon drone surveillance operations over the region. Likely it will now have to be shuttered.

International reports estimate that some 1,000 or more US troops and contractors remain in the country, with most of them manning the airbase. Much of the population looks upon the US as an 'imperial' power, also given the history of the Western powers in Africa, particularly starting in the 19th century and what historians dub "the Scramble for Africa".