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Russian troops enter US military base in Niger – Reuters

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Russian troops enter US military base in Niger – Reuters

Russian troops have entered an air base in Niger where US troops are stationed.

Source: Reuters, citing a senior Pentagon official

Details: The move follows the decision of the Nigerien junta to expel US troops from the country.

Military officials running the West African country have asked the US to withdraw nearly 1,000 troops from the country, which, until last year’s coup, was a key partner of Washington in the fight against insurgents who have killed thousands and forced millions to flee their homes.

A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russian troops were not mixing with US troops but were using a separate hangar at Airbase 101, which is located next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

Reuters writes that the move by the Russian military puts US and Russian troops in close proximity at a time when military and diplomatic rivalry between the countries is becoming increasingly fierce over the war in Ukraine.

It also raises questions about the fate of US facilities in Niger after the US withdrawal.

The official concluded: „(The situation) is not great but in the short-term manageable.“

The United States and its allies have been forced to withdraw from a number of African countries following coups that have brought to power groups seeking to distance themselves from Western governments. Recently, US troops left Chad, and French troops were expelled from Mali and Burkina Faso.

At the same time, Russia is seeking to strengthen relations with African countries, positioning itself as a friendly country without colonial baggage on the continent.

Mali, for example, has become one of Russia’s closest African allies in recent years, and the Wagner Private Military Company has deployed troops there to fight jihadist insurgents.

A US official said that the Nigerian authorities had told President Joe Biden’s administration that about 60 Russian soldiers would be deployed in Niger, but he could not confirm the figure.

After the coup, the US military relocated some of its forces in Niger from Airbase 101 to Airbase 201 in the city of Agadez. It was not immediately clear what kind of US military equipment remained at Airbase 101.

The United States built Air Base 201 in central Niger at a cost of more than US$100 million. Since 2018, it has been used to conduct drone strikes against Islamic State militants and the al-Qaeda branch Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).

Niger requested the withdrawal of US troops after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials raised concerns, including the expected arrival of Russian troops and reports that Iran was seeking raw materials, including uranium, in the country.

Although the US message to Nigerian officials was not an ultimatum, the official said, it was made clear that US troops could not be present on the same base with Russian troops.

An American general was sent to Niger to try to organise a professional and orderly withdrawal.

While no decisions have been made on the future of US troops in Niger, the official said the plan is for them to return to the US Africa Command base in Germany.

Background:

In mid-March, the United States accused Niger’s leadership of secretly signing a deal to give Iran access to its uranium reserves.
On 12 April, Niger state television reported that Russian military instructors had arrived in the country on a plane loaded with military equipment.
The military coup in Niger occurred on 26 July 2023. The democratically elected president of the country, Mohamed Bazoum, has since remained under arrest. 

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