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Whistleblower Says US Endangers Troops By Refusing To Leave Niger

Above photo: Protesters that the Niger military dictatorship allowed to gather to demonstrate against U.S. troop presence on April 13, 2024. AFP via Getty Images.

A senior airman based in Niger said US personnel are ‘being held hostage’ by the US reluctance to leave.

The Biden administration’s refusal to withdraw from Niger despite an order from the post-coup government to leave has put US troops in the country in danger, a senior Air Force leader said in a letter to Congress that was obtained by The Washington Post.

The whistleblower said that senior officials at the US Embassy in Niger have “intentionally suppressed intelligence” to maintain the “facade of a great country-to-country relationship” as the US is trying to figure out a way to maintain its military presence.

The Nigerien government, known as the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), said in March that it was severing military relations with the US and that the US presence was no longer legally justified. US officials have claimed they didn’t receive an order to exit the country.

“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.

Nigerien officials recently held talks with US officials and said that the US would submit a plan to “disengage” troops from Niger. But the US side refused to comment on the talks and did not confirm that they agreed to submit a withdrawal plan.

Since the July 23 coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, US troops in Niger have been on orders to “sit and hold.” The whistleblower said that US personnel have had their deployments extended because Niger is not approving new visas for troop rotations. The airman said that all “US forces were scheduled to end a six-month deployment early this month when relief forces arrived.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said at a congressional hearing on Tuesday that he spoke with US Army soldiers in Niger and described a similar account. He said there are “Army soldiers right now in Niger who aren’t getting their troop rotations, who aren’t getting their medicine, who aren’t getting their supplies, who aren’t getting their mail.” Criticizing Army leaders at the hearing for not taking the situations seriously, Gaetz said, “And the two senior people in the United States Army are sitting before me, and it’s like ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.’”

The whistleblower said that the US actions in Niger “have potential implications for our bilateral relations with other Partner Nations and the safety of our personnel in the region.”

The whistleblower is based at Air Base 101 near the capital Niamey, but most US personnel are stationed at Air Base 201 in Agadez, a facility that cost over $100 million to build and acts as a hub for US drone operations in West Africa. The US does not want to give up such a significant drone base but has also been preparing for the possibility of getting kicked out. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the US was in talks with other West African states to base drones on their territory, including Benin, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana.

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