WASHINGTON (AFP): The United States is moving some of its troops from a base in Niger’s capital Niamey — where rebel officers seized power in a July coup — to another in the Agadez area, the Pentagon said Thursday.
Washington has some 1,100 military personnel in the country, but the Defense Department says they have largely remained on bases while curtailing activities such as joint training after the military takeover in Niger.
The United States “is repositioning some of our personnel and some of our assets from Air Base 101 in Niamey to Air Base 201 in Agadez,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.
“There’s no immediate threat to US personnel or violence on the ground,” she said, describing the move as a “precautionary measure.”
A “small group” of personnel will remain at Air Base 101 following the move, which is currently ongoing, Singh said.
She also said “some non-essential personnel and contractors” had previously departed the country.
Niger has been a key base for both American and French anti-jihadist operations, and the repositioning of US troops comes after a French defense ministry source said Paris was holding holds talks with Niger on withdrawing “elements” of its presence there.
There have been days of rallies calling for Niger’s former colonial ruler to remove its forces, and military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said earlier this week that “contacts” were under way about a “very swift” departure for Paris’ troops.
But Singh said there is “no tie” between the US move and “what the French military is doing right now.”
Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled on July 26 by some members of his guard and was detained along with his family.
The West African bloc ECOWAS has taken a hard line on Niger following a cascade of coups in the region, threatening to use force to restore civilian rule.
Troops took power in Mali and Burkina Faso, where like Niger, losses among the armed forces are surging in the face of a long-running jihadist insurgency.
A putsch also took place in Guinea in 2021 after the country’s octogenarian president, Alpha Conde, ran for a third term in office, a move that opponents said breached constitutional limits.
Echoing past US comments, Singh expressed hope for a negotiated solution to the situation in Niger.
“We are hopeful that diplomatic talks will continue and that the situation in Niger will be resolved diplomatically,” she said.