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In Niger, US seeks to hang on to its last, best counterterrorist outpost in West Africa

by Gabriel Martinez
1 comment
counterterrorism

Amidst a coup in Niger that has lasted for ten days, U.S. forces at a counterterrorism base in West Africa are facing increased challenges. Flights in and out of the country have been restricted, requiring Americans to seek permission for each flight, and fuel shortages have led to the U.S. commander needing to approve every refueling of aircraft. Despite other European countries evacuating their citizens, the Biden administration is determined to remain in Niger, considering it the last and most important counterterrorism outpost in the region and a once-promising democracy.

While European governments have closed embassies and evacuated personnel, U.S. diplomats have sent nonessential staff and some families home but have chosen to stay in Niger. President Joe Biden has called for the release of the democratically elected President Mohammed Bazoum and the restoration of Niger’s democracy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in regular contact with the captive president, showing the U.S.’s support for his safety and return to power.

The U.S. government is reluctant to label the situation as a coup, as they are hopeful for a return to civilian government. Unlike its response to other crises, such as in Sudan, the U.S. is maintaining a firm stance in Niger, even as the situation unfolds. The U.S. and France have threatened to cut off aid to the new junta, but this response is complicated by the presence of jihadist groups and Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in the region.

U.S. personnel remain at their counterterrorism bases in Niger, conducting operations against Islamic extremist movements. Despite the challenging environment, U.S. military personnel have engaged with local communities and invested in various development projects.

The coup in Niger could have significant implications for U.S. security forces’ presence in the region, and if the coup remains successful, it may prompt a reduction in U.S. military presence, potentially allowing jihadist groups to expand their influence in Niger. Furthermore, the presence of Russia’s Wagner Group in neighboring countries raises concerns about their activities in the region and the exploitation of resources like uranium in Niger.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about counterterrorism

Q: What is the current situation in Niger?

A: Niger is experiencing a coup that has been ongoing for ten days, leading to challenges for U.S. forces at a counterterrorism base in the region.

Q: How has the coup affected U.S. operations in Niger?

A: Flights in and out of the country have been curtailed, and fuel shortages necessitate the U.S. commander’s approval for aircraft refueling.

Q: Why is the Biden administration determined to stay in Niger despite the coup?

A: The U.S. sees Niger as its last, best counterterrorism outpost in an unstable region south of the Sahara Desert. Abandoning it may lead to increased jihadist activity and greater Russian influence.

Q: What actions has the U.S. government taken in response to the coup?

A: While some European countries evacuated their citizens, U.S. diplomats have sent nonessential staff and some families home but opted to remain in Niger.

Q: What is the U.S. government’s stance on the coup in Niger?

A: The U.S. government refuses to formally label it a coup, expressing hope for a return to civilian government.

Q: What efforts are being made to restore Niger’s government?

A: President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have called for the release of President Bazoum and the restoration of Niger’s democracy. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing.

Q: What are the risks associated with the coup in Niger?

A: If the coup stands, it could impact U.S. security forces’ presence in the region, potentially leading to further jihadist influence. Russia’s Wagner Group’s presence raises concerns about their actions in neighboring countries and exploitation of resources like uranium.

Q: How significant is the counterterrorism base in Niger for U.S. operations?

A: The base plays a crucial role in conducting wide-ranging patrols and counterterror operations against Islamic extremist movements in the region.

Q: Are there any potential consequences of cutting off aid to Niger’s junta?

A: Cutting off aid may have repercussions given the presence of jihadist groups and Russian interests in the region.

Q: What are the major extremist threats in the West African region?

A: Boko Haram in Nigeria and Chad, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin pose significant threats in the region.

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1 comment

CoffeeAddict55 August 5, 2023 - 12:23 am

so many extremist groups in the area, scary! hope US diplomacy works. no easy solutions here ☕

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