US Military Has Been Kicked Out of Niger

AP Photo/Carley Petesch

The Washington Post published an exclusive this morning about a major diplomatic break with the West African country of Niger. The US has had about 1,000 troops there working to counter Islamic extremism in the region but now they have been asked to leave. The country's prime minister is blaming the break entirely on the US.


In an exclusive interview, Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine put the blame for the breakdown squarely on the United States, accusing American officials of trying to dictate which countries Niger could partner with and failing to justify the U.S. troop presence, now scheduled to end in the coming months. Niger has been central to efforts to contain a growing Islamist insurgency in West Africa.

The rift between the former allies has created an opportunity for Russia, which has moved quickly to deepen its relationship with Niger, dispatching troops to the capital, Niamey, last month to train the Nigerien military and supplying a new air defense system. Russian and U.S. troops now occupy opposite ends of an air base.

So is this another foreign policy blunder by the Biden administration? Well, that may be part of it but there is a backstory here which makes me think there wasn't much to be done. Prime Minister Zeine has only been PM since last August. He was given the position by the military junta which ousted the former PM in a coup last July.

Once involved in peacekeeping efforts in war-hit countries, General Abdourahmane Tchiani has now triggered a major crisis in West Africa by staging a coup in Niger.

Low-profile and hitherto little known outside his immediate circle, he was the commander of Niger's presidential guard until he emerged from the shadows to overthrow the man he was charged with protecting, President Mohamed Bazoum.

Gen Tchiani declared himself the head of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, the military junta set up after he seized power on 26 July.


The US responded as it was required to by law, stopping intelligence sharing with the coup leaders and asking them to move back toward democracy by holding new elections. But PM Zeine saw this as the US abandoning the country while pressuring them about contacts with Iran and Russia.

“The Americans stayed on our soil, doing nothing while the terrorists killed people and burned towns,” Zeine said. “It is not a sign of friendship to come on our soil but let the terrorists attack us. We have seen what the United States will do to defend its allies, because we have seen Ukraine and Israel.”...

...the Nigerien leaders took particular umbrage at remarks by Molly Phee, the State Department’s top official for African affairs, who he said had urged the government during a March visit to Niamey to refrain from engaging with Iran and Russia in ways objectionable to Washington if Niger wanted to continue its security relationship with the United States. He also said Phee had further threatened sanctions if Niger pursued a deal to sell uranium to Iran.

“When she finished, I said, ‘Madame, I am going to summarize in two points what you have said,’” recounted Zeine, who has led negotiations with the United States. “First, you have come here to threaten us in our country. That is unacceptable. And you have come here to tell us with whom we can have relationships, which is also unacceptable. And you have done it all with a condescending tone and a lack of respect.”


I'm not sure what any US administration could have done differently in this situation. They have abandoned democracy. We apparently have evidence they are considering selling uranium to Iran and they are welcoming Russian troops onto the same base where US troops are stationed all while demanding more military aid from the US. This sounds like a no-win situation.

It's also not completely surprising that a country that is still under the control of a military junta would find friends among other dictatorships. If that's the choice they want to make, we should get out and not look back.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos