DOD Gives Update On Base In Niger

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The recent joint statement issued by the United States and Niger, setting a deadline of September 15 for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Niger, has sparked significant concern among conservatives.

This decision follows the construction of a $100-million military base intended to support counter-terrorism operations in the volatile Sahel region, a strategic effort now seemingly in jeopardy.

Airbase 201 in Agadez, a critical asset in counter-terrorism efforts, faces an uncertain future. The joint statement hinted at possible future cooperation between the U.S. and Niger on “issues of mutual interest,” but the specifics remain unclear. This ambiguity leaves many wondering about the fate of the considerable investment made by American taxpayers.

In a recent conference call, a senior Defense Department official outlined plans for the withdrawal, stating that the U.S. would take sensitive, lethal, and hazardous equipment but might leave behind immobile or low-value items. The official emphasized the priority of a smooth and collaborative withdrawal process, suggesting that some equipment might remain in Niger to preserve the possibility of future operations there. However, this raises questions about the security and future use of the infrastructure funded by the U.S.

Concerningly, the Biden administration appears to lack clarity on the presence and activities of Russian soldiers in Niger. Despite the Nigerien military’s assurances of ongoing protection for U.S. forces, the admission of uncertainty regarding Russian deployments is troubling. The reference to the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which has reportedly dispatched personnel to Niger, underscores the geopolitical complexities at play.

Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine’s recent criticisms highlight the strained relations between Niger and the Biden administration. Zeine condemned the “condescending tone and lack of respect” from U.S. officials, attributing this to the administration’s disapproval of the coup that brought his government to power and its concerns over Niger’s alleged dealings with Iran and Russia. His remarks cast doubt on the effectiveness and sincerity of U.S. efforts to support Niger against terrorist threats.

Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, expressed deep concern over the implications of this withdrawal. He described the move as leaving counter-terrorism operations in “complete disarray” and reducing intelligence gathering to “practically zero.” Given the severe threat posed by jihadist groups in the Sahel, this is a worrying development.

Adding to the complexity, a U.S. defense official revealed that flights from U.S.-occupied bases now require junta approval, resulting in delays and cancellations. This restriction hampers U.S. operational capabilities and highlights the challenging dynamics between U.S. and Nigerien military officials, who reportedly struggled to conclude their negotiations.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger, amid uncertain future cooperation and geopolitical tensions, poses significant risks to counter-terrorism efforts in the region. The concerns voiced by experts and officials underscore the potential consequences of this decision, raising critical questions about the future of U.S. involvement in the Sahel.