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United States Agrees To Withdraw Troops From Niger

Above photo: Nigeriens participate in a demonstration in the capital, Niamey, on April 13 to demand the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel. Mahamadou Hamidou/Reuters.

A whistleblower said the US was putting its troops in danger by refusing to leave after Niger’s military-led government called for a US exit.

The Biden administration has agreed to a request from Niger’s military-led government to withdraw US troops from the West African nation.

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told Nigerien Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine that the US planned to leave during a meeting on Friday. “We’ve agreed to begin conversations within days about how to develop a [withdrawal] plan,” Campbell said, according to The Washington Post.

“They’ve agreed that we do it in an orderly and responsible way. And we will need to probably dispatch folks to Niamey to sit down and hash it out. And that of course will be a Defense Department project,” Campbell added.

The decision came about one month after Niger’s government ended military cooperation with the US and said the US presence was no longer legally justified.

The US tried to figure out a way to stay in Niger as it has a major drone base in the country, known as Air Base 201, that cost over $100 million to build and serves as a hub for US operations across the region. At one point, the US even claimed that it hadn’t been given an order to leave.

But there was no sign that Niger was open to any sort of deal with the US. The news of the planned US withdrawal comes after a senior Air Force leader blew the whistle on the situation in a letter to Congress, saying US officials were suppressing intelligence and that the refusal to leave Niger was putting troops in danger.

“It is clear that the country of Niger does not want a permanent military presence in the country, and they have informed us that we need to leave. At the same time, there are approximately 1,100 US Military Service Members in the country who are essentially being held hostage from returning home to their families while the State Department continues with failed diplomacy by not communicating with the country of Niger on what their withdrawal plans will look like,” the whistleblower said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) submitted a report to Congress that also sounded the alarm about the conditions for US troops in Niger. Gaetz’s office said the investigation “includes interviews of active-duty US service members stationed in Niger who have revealed a suppression of intelligence reports by the Department of State on the conditions American troops on the ground in Niger face, which has led to a crisis for our service members in that country.”

After the July 2023 coup that ousted President Mahamed Bazoum, Niger’s new government expelled French troops. While the US was trying to figure out a way to stay in the country, it has also been in talks with other West African countries about basing drones on their territory. The Wall Street Journal reported that the US discussed the idea with Benin, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana, but there’s no sign a deal has been reached.

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