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US sets deadline for troop withdrawal from Niger

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The United States has initiated the withdrawal of its military forces from Niger Republic, following directives from the West African nation’s military leadership.

The withdrawal process, slated to be completed by September 15, 2024, marks the end of an era of American military presence in the country.

According to a press release jointly issued by the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland and the US Department of Defense on Sunday, discussions between the two parties, held from May 15 to 19, 2024, in Niamey, Niger, aimed to ensure the orderly and safe withdrawal of US forces from the region.

Led by high-ranking officials such as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Christopher Maier, and the Chief of Staff of the Nigerien Army, Colonel-Major Mamane Kiaou, the discussions emphasised transparency and mutual respect.

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The withdrawal encompasses troops stationed at key bases, notably the strategically significant $110 million drone base in Agadez.

“Representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of Niger met from May 15 to 19, 2024, in Niamey, Republic of Niger, as part of a Joint Disengagement Commission, to coordinate the orderly and safe withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger.

“These discussions between the militaries were conducted in complete transparency and with perfect mutual respect between the two parties.

“The U.S. Department of Defense delegation was led by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, Mr. Christopher Maier; and the Director of Joint Force Development in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant General Dagvin Anderson. The delegation of the Ministry of National Defense of Niger was led by the Chief of Staff of the Army, Colonel-Major Mamane Sani Kiaou,” the statement read in part.

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Despite the military disengagement, both nations affirmed their commitment to ongoing diplomatic dialogue and cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including counterterrorism efforts.

“The U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of Niger have reached a disengagement agreement to effect the withdrawal of U.S. forces, which has already begun. It is therefore agreed that this disengagement will end no later than September 15, 2024.

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“Both delegations confirmed the guarantees of protection and security to the American forces during their withdrawal. The delegations also established procedures to facilitate the entry and exit of U.S. personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights.

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“The U.S. Department of Defense and the Nigerien Ministry of National Defense recall the joint sacrifices of Nigerien and U.S. forces in the fight against terrorism and commend each other’s efforts to build up the Nigerien Armed Forces. The Parties undertake to continue cooperation in areas of common interest.

“The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger does not affect the continuation of U.S.-Niger development relations. The United States and Niger are committed to ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations,” it added.

The US initially established a military base in Niger to combat armed groups aligned with al-Qaeda and ISIL operating in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso and Mali. The primary airbase in Agadez, located about 920km from the capital Niamey, has been a crucial site for both manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other military operations.

On April 19, 2024, the US announced plans to withdraw its troops from Niger due to the West African nation’s growing alignment with Russia and its distancing from Western powers. Consequently, the US Department of State agreed to pull out approximately 1,000 troops from the country, which has been under military rule since July 2023.

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