Niger junta repudiates deal allowing US military bases on its soil | Niger

Niger’s ruling military junta says it has revoked with immediate effect a military accord that allows US military personnel and civilian staff on its soil.

As of 2023 there were about 1,100 US troops in Niger, where the US military operates out of two bases including a drone base known as airbase 201, built near Agadez in central Niger at a cost of more than US $100m. Since 2018 the base has been used to target Islamic State militants and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), an al-Qaida affiliate, in the Sahel region.

The junta’s announcement follows a visit by US officials this week which was led by assistant secretary of state for African affairs Molly Phee and included Gen Michael Langley, commander of the US Africa command. Col Amadou Abdramane said on Niger television on Saturday that the US delegation did not follow diplomatic protocol, and that Niger was not informed about the composition of the delegation, the date of its arrival or the agenda.

He added that the discussions were around the current military transition in Niger, military cooperation between the two countries and Niger’s choice of partners in the fight against militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State.

Since seizing power in July 2023, the Niger junta, like the military rulers in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, have kicked out French and other European forces, and turned to Russia for support.

“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,” Abdramane said.

“Also, the government of Niger forcefully denounces the condescending attitude accompanied by the threat of retaliation from the head of the American delegation towards the Nigerien government and people.”

Abdramane stopped short of saying US forces should leave. But he alleged their status and presence was illegal and violated constitutional and democratic rules because, he claimed, it was unilaterally imposed in 2012.

He said Niger was not aware of the number of US civilian and military personnel on its soil or the amount of equipment deployed and, according to the agreement, the US military had no obligation to respond to any request for help against militants.

“In light of all the above, the government of Niger, revokes with immediate effect the agreement concerning the status of United States military personnel and civilian employees of the American department of defence on the territory of the Republic of Niger,” Abdramane said.

The US defence department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apart from the Agadez airbase, the US has invested years and hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military. Some of those forces were involved in the July overthrow of Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.

In October, Washington officially designated the military takeover as a coup, which triggered US laws restricting the military support and aid that it can provide to Niger. But in December, Phee said the US was willing to restore aid and security ties if Niger met certain conditions.

With Associated Press and Reuters

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