US Troop Withdrawal Negotiations Amidst Russian Anti-Aircraft Deployment in Niger

The military junta has become politically close to Russia, as well as Mali and Burkina Faso, countries that are also ruled by military coups, and over 100 Russian military instructors have come to this African country

by Sededin Dedovic
US Troop Withdrawal Negotiations Amidst Russian Anti-Aircraft Deployment in Niger
© Al Jazeera English / Youtube channel

The United States government has initiated negotiations with authorities in Niger regarding the withdrawal of American troops from the West African nation, the Pentagon announced. These troops were deployed to fight insurgents in the Sahel region, to which Niger belongs, but now they must return home.

Niger's government, formed as a result of a coup last July, decided last month to terminate its military cooperation agreement with the US and declared the presence of US troops in Niger "illegal". The United States will withdraw its troops from Niger, a source told Reuters late on Friday, adding that an agreement had been reached between US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Niger's leadership.

Last week, Washington finally agreed to withdraw more than 1,000 troops from the country and announced it was sending a delegation to Niamey to negotiate the details of the withdrawal. "We can confirm the beginning of discussions between the United States and Niger regarding the orderly withdrawal of US forces," Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said.

A small delegation from the Pentagon and the United States Africa Command are participating in the negotiations. "The United States will continue to explore possible options to ensure that it is always able to confront potential terrorist threats," Ryder added.

In Niamey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Niger, Bakari Jao Sangare, announced that he had "discussions" with the American ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, about "the issue of the departure of military troops from Niger."

Nigers military leadership give speech for media including Al Jazzera© Al Jazeera English / Youtube channel

The conversation was held in the presence of Maria Baron, director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Niamey, who expressed her belief that the agency will "continue bilateral cooperation" with Niger and announced "a new agreement that will replace the existing one, which expires in September 2024.

", the announcement states. In Niger, the US maintains a significant drone base near Agadez, which cost about $100 million to build. After the coup that ousted the elected president Mohamed Bazoum, the new military regime quickly demanded the departure of French troops.

The military junta has aligned itself politically with Russia, as well as with Mali and Burkina Faso, countries also ruled by military coup leaders, Al Jazeera reports. As negotiations between the US and Niger unfold, the implications of this withdrawal extend beyond military cooperation.

It affects diplomatic relations, regional stability and the ongoing fight against terrorism in the Sahel. The presence of US troops in Niger has been a critical component of international efforts to combat insurgent groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS in West Africa.

The Niger government's decision to terminate the military cooperation agreement reflects a shift in geopolitical dynamics, with implications for both regional security and broader international relations. It signals a re-evaluation of Niger's strategic partnership at a time of great danger of the outbreak of a global war and when two strong blocs are formed led by the USA and Russia and China on the other side.

For the United States, the withdrawal of troops from Niger represents a turning point for its military presence in Africa amid evolving global security challenges around the world. Now the effectiveness of American military interventions in the region, where the situation is very complex, is questionable.

The government of Niger firmly stood by Russia and Putin

Russia's growing influence in Niger and other Sahel countries poses a challenge to US interests in the region. Russia's strategic interests in Africa, including access to natural resources and geopolitical influence, have led to increased diplomatic and military engagement across the continent.

In recent years, Russia has expanded its presence in Africa through arms sales, military training programs and political alliances with authoritarian regimes. Its partnership with the military junta in Niger underscores a broader trend of authoritarian consolidation where dictatorial regimes stick purposefully together.

Russian military instructors arrived in Niger in a plane loaded with military equipment, Niger's state broadcaster RTN reported, citing an agreement between the junta and Russian President Vladimir Putin to strengthen cooperation.

RTN broadcast footage of a military cargo plane unloading equipment while men in uniform stood by. RTN also announced that Russia has agreed to install an anti-aircraft system in Niger. The West African country's relations with Moscow have been in the spotlight since the junta seized power in a coup last year and severed longstanding military and diplomatic ties with France.

As both the US and Russia vie for influence in strategic locations such as Niger, there is a risk of confrontations and destabilizing interventions that could further undermine peace and security in the Sahel. The withdrawal of US troops from Niger is likely to have ripple effects across the region, affecting neighboring countries and international partners involved in the fight against terrorism.