Efforts are underway to negotiate the presence of US forces in Niger, amidst broader discussions surrounding the withdrawal of American troops from the West African nation. While a broad withdrawal order has been issued for the majority of the less than 1,000 US troops in Niger, officials are exploring the possibility of leaving behind a small contingent, according to US officials, CNN reported.
Discussions have commenced with the military junta that took control of Niger last July, with the aim of reaching an agreement on troop presence. Although some initial conversations have begun, detailed discussions with Niger’s civilian leadership are pending, focusing primarily on the logistics of the withdrawal.
Chris Maier, assistant secretary of Defence for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, emphasised the significance of aligning with Niger’s preferences. “We’ll make the most out of the situation that was presented to us but the intent is in Niger, to draw down to a level that the Nigerians can live with,” Maier told CNN.
However, negotiations must address key issues such as permitting US military flights in and out of the country, with airspace restrictions imposed since the coup last July.
A phased withdrawal plan is underway, with non-essential equipment and personnel being gradually removed from Niger. Despite ongoing discussions, the possibility of retaining a small troop presence remains uncertain, as Niger’s government has expressed a clear desire for the complete departure of US forces.
The volatile situation in Niger reflects broader concerns about growing instability across Africa, marked by a wave of military coups in recent years. This instability has provided opportunities for rival powers like Russia to expand their influence on the continent.
The termination of Niger’s military agreement with the US in March further underscores the shifting geopolitical dynamics. Russian forces have been operating alongside US troops in Niger, signalling Moscow’s increasing presence in the region, as reported by CNN.
Additionally, Chad’s threat to cancel its agreement with the US poses further challenges to American interests in Africa. Although the number of US troops in Chad is relatively small, the potential withdrawal could have significant implications for stability and American influence across the continent.
General Michael Langley, head of US Africa Command, warned of the growing influence of the Russian Federation in Africa, citing their dissemination of misinformation. The allure of immediate security assistance offered by Russia poses a challenge to American efforts to maintain partnerships with African governments.
Concerns about growing instability extend beyond Africa, potentially affecting U.S. strategic interests in regions like the Mediterranean. The evolving geopolitical landscape underscores the need for strategic responses to rival powers’ overtures in Africa.
While the US faces challenges in maintaining its influence in Africa, there remains an opportunity to demonstrate the limitations of alternative partnerships. However, the growing presence of rival powers like Russia presents a formidable challenge to American interests in the region, CNN reported. (ANI)