US Troops, Tools Will Depart From Niger by Mid-September, the Pentagon Says

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. troops ordered out of Niger by the West African nation’s ruling junta will full their withdrawal by the center of September, the Pentagon and Nigerien protection officers mentioned Sunday.

The timeline was the product of 4 days of talks between the international locations’ protection officers within the capital metropolis of Niamey, based on a joint assertion.

Niger’s choice to kick out American forces dealt a blow to U.S. navy operations within the Sahel, an enormous area south of the Sahara desert the place teams linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group function.

U.S. troops and a few gear have already got begun leaving the nation, a senior navy official and a senior protection official who briefed reporters on a name Sunday mentioned. The plan is to take away all deadly, hazardous or categorized gear earlier than the final U.S. troops depart, however objects which are decided to be too costly to fly out may very well be left for the Nigerien navy to make use of as an alternative, the officers mentioned.

The U.S. additionally will depart behind infrastructure it has constructed over time to help the roughly 1,000 troops who’ve been based mostly there to conduct counterterrorism missions, the officers mentioned. Fewer than 1,000 U.S. troops are nonetheless in Niger, totally on an airbase close to Agadez, some 920 kilometers (550 miles) away from the capital.

The officers spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate particulars of the withdrawal.

The officers referred to as Niger an “anchor” in U.S. counterterrorism efforts over the past decade, and they’re nonetheless taking a look at choices on easy methods to fill that hole. The officers mentioned that their hope is to proceed to work with the Nigerien navy on counterterrorism work sooner or later, even when U.S. troops are usually not based mostly there on the bottom.

The rupture in navy cooperation adopted final July’s ouster of the nation’s democratically elected president by mutinous troopers. A couple of months later, the ruling junta requested French forces to depart and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for safety help.

The officers mentioned they didn’t have indications that the Wagner group could find yourself rising its affect over the Nigerien navy within the absence of U.S. personnel,

In October, Washington formally designated the navy takeover as a coup, which triggered U.S. legal guidelines proscribing the navy help and support that it could present to Niger.

Till lately, Washington thought of Niger a key accomplice and ally in a area swept by coups lately, investing hundreds of thousands of {dollars} within the Agadez base, which has been important to U.S. counterterrorism operations within the Sahel. America additionally has invested a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in coaching Niger’s navy because it started operations there in 2013.

The Pentagon has additionally mentioned the U.S. will relocate many of the roughly 100 forces it has deployed in neighboring Chad for now. However talks are anticipated to renew subsequent month about revising an settlement that enables U.S. troops to be based mostly in Chad.

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