Published: 13:33, May 20, 2024
US to complete withdrawal from Niger by Sept 15
By Reuters
A US and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, April 16, 2018. (PHOTO / AP)

NIAMEY/WASHINGTON — Niger and the United States have reached an agreement on the withdrawal of American troops from the West African country, a process that has already begun and will be finished by Sept 15, they said in a joint statement.

Niger's ruling junta last month told the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country. Until a coup last year Niger had been a key partner in Washington's fight against insurgents in the Sahel region of Africa, who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

"The Ministry of Defense of Niger and the US Department of Defense recall the common sacrifices of the Nigerien and American forces in the fight against terrorism and welcome the mutual efforts made in building up the Nigerien armed forces," they said in a joint statement

The agreement between Niger's defense ministry and the US Department of Defense, reached after a five-day meeting, guarantees the protection of US troops until their withdrawal and establishes procedures to ease the entry and exit of American personnel during the withdrawal process.

READ MORE: US gets 'mixed signals' after Niger ending US military ties

"The Ministry of Defense of Niger and the US Department of Defense recall the common sacrifices of the Nigerien and American forces in the fight against terrorism and welcome the mutual efforts made in building up the Nigerien armed forces," they said in a joint statement.

"The withdrawal of American forces from Niger in no way affects the pursuit of relations between the United States and Niger in the area of development. Also, Niger and the United States are committed to an ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations."

A senior US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that about 100 US troops had already been moved out of the country.

The United States will remove sensitive equipment it has in Niger, but will leave behind other larger pieces like air conditioning units, generators and hangars, a separate US defense official said.

The United States will let Nigerien forces use that equipment left behind, if it meets legal standards, the official said.

The official added that it did not appear that the Nigerien junta wanted to hand over counter-terrorism operations to Russian troops or those from the Wagner private military company.

READ MORE: Niger revokes military accord with US, spokesperson says

"I think we tend to believe what they've told us, at least the CNSP, which is they're not looking for any foreign forces in large numbers here," the official said, using an acronym for Niger's ruling military council.

Niger's decision to ask for the removal of US troops came after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials raised concerns about issues such as the expected arrival of Russian forces and reports of Iran seeking raw materials in the country, including uranium.

Russian military personnel have since entered an air base in Niger that is hosting US troops.