US to ‘evaluate’ Niger ties after France kicked out

US Defence Secretary, Lloyd’s Austin responds to a question from the media at the Defence Headquarter’s in Nairobi on September 26, 2023
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Copyright © africanews

TONY KARUMBA/AFP or licensors

By Africanews

Niger

Washington will “consider all future steps” regarding its military presence in Niger, following France’s announcement that it will withdraw its troops from the country by the end of the year, the US Secretary of Defense said on Monday.

“While giving diplomacy a chance, we will also continue to explore all future steps that will prioritize both our diplomatic and security objectives,” Lloyd Austin told a press conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where he is visiting.

President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday the return to Paris of the French ambassador in Niamey and the withdrawal from Niger of the 1,500 French troops based in the country.

“We are ending our military cooperation with the de facto authorities in Niger, because they no longer want to fight terrorism,” said the French president.

The United States has some 1,100 troops stationed in Niger, engaged against jihadist groups active in the region.

“We have not made any significant changes to the positioning of our forces and (…) we really want a diplomatic solution, a peaceful outcome”, assured the US Secretary of Defense, who refused to comment on Paris’ decision.

The Pentagon had announced on September 7 that it was repositioning its troops “as a precaution”, transferring some soldiers from a base in the capital Niamey to an air base further north.

On September 14, the United States announced that it was resuming surveillance flights over Niger, which it had interrupted after the military coup in late July. The rest of its military operations in the country remained frozen, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

The withdrawal of French troops from Niger, which had been one of Paris’s last allies in the Sahel before the July 26 coup and the overthrow of elected president Mohamed Bazoum, follows those of Mali and Burkina Faso, where France has already been pushed out by hostile juntas.

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