Niger 'sent' the French and the Americans home: the Russians are moving into bases

Russian military personnel have entered an air base in Niger where US troops are stationed, a senior US military official said, in a move that followed Niger's junta's decision to expel US forces

by Sededin Dedovic
SHARE
Niger 'sent' the French and the Americans home: the Russians are moving into bases
© DW News / Youtube channel

Russian military personnel have entered an air base in Niger where US soldiers are stationed, a senior US military official said, in a move that followed the Niger junta's decision to expel United States (US) forces from the country.

Military officers ruling the West African nation have ordered the United States to withdraw nearly 1,000 troops from Niger, which until last year's coup was a key partner in Washington's fight against rebels who have killed thousands and displaced millions.

A senior US military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Russian forces were not mingling with US soldiers but were using a separate room at the 101st Air Force Base, which is located next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger's capital.

This move by the Russian army puts American and Russian soldiers in close proximity, at a time when the military and diplomatic rivalry between the two countries is becoming increasingly acute due to the conflict in Ukraine.

It also raises questions about the fate of US military installations in the country after the withdrawal. "The situation is not great, but it can be resolved in the short term," the official said. The US and its allies have been forced to move troops from a number of African countries after coups that brought to power groups that seek to distance themselves from Western governments.

In addition to the upcoming departure from Niger, American soldiers have also left Chad in recent days, while French forces have been expelled from Mali and Burkina Faso. At the same time, Russia seeks to strengthen relations with African states, presenting Moscow as a friendly country without colonial burdens on the continent.

Mali, for example, has become one of Russia's closest African allies in recent years, and the mercenary forces of the Wagner Group have been deployed there in the fight against the rebels. Russia has described relations with the United States as "below zero" because of American military and financial aid to Ukraine.

A US official said that Nigerian authorities had told the administration of President Joe Biden that about sixty members of Russian military personnel would be in Niger, but the official could not verify that figure. After the coup, the US military moved some of its forces in Niger from Air Force Base 101 to Air Force Base 201 in the city of Agadez.

It was not immediately clear what US military equipment remained at the 101st Air Force Base.

Nigers Junta Soldiers© Al Jazeera English / YOutube channel

The United States built Air Base 201 in central Niger at a cost of more than $100 million.

Since 2018, it has been used to attack fighters of the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda linked Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimen (JNIM), armed with drones. Washington is concerned about the presence of militants in the Sahel region, which could spread without the presence of US forces and intelligence capabilities.

Niger's move to request the departure of US troops follows a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials expressed concern over the expected arrival of Russian forces and reports that Iran is seeking raw materials from the country, including uranium.

While the U.S. message to Nigerian officials was not final, the official said, it was made clear that U.S. forces could not be based with Russian forces. "They didn't take it well," said the official. A two-star American general was sent to Niger to try to organize a professional and responsible withdrawal.

Although no decisions have been made about the future of American soldiers in Niger, the official said that the plan is for them to return to the home bases of the American African Command, which are located in Germany, RSE reports.

Russian military personnel entered an air base in Niger where US soldiers are stationed, a senior US military official said, in a move that followed the Niger junta's decision to expel United States (US) forces from the country.

Military officers ruling the West African country have ordered the United States to withdraw nearly 1,000 troops from Niger, which until last year's coup was a key partner in Washington's fight against rebels who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions, reports Radio Free Europe.

A senior US military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said Russian forces were not mingling with US soldiers but were using a separate room at the 101st Air Force Base, which is located next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger's capital.

The move by the Russian military puts American and Russian soldiers in close proximity at a time when the two countries' military and diplomatic rivalry is intensifying over the conflict in Ukraine, which also raises questions about the fate of American military installations in the country after the withdrawal.

"The situation is not great, but it can be resolved in the short term," the official said. The US and its allies have been forced to move troops from a number of African countries after coups that brought to power groups that seek to distance themselves from Western governments.

Russian
SHARE