Russian Forces Arrive at Niger Airbase, Hosted by US Troops

Russian Forces Arrive at Niger Airbase, Hosted by US Troops
EPA Supporters of the coup have taken to the streets with anti-US messages

Russian Forces Arrive at Niger Airbase, Hosted by US Troops

US officials have confirmed the deployment of Russian troops to an airbase in Niger, where American soldiers are also stationed. This development follows a directive from Niger’s military rulers instructing the US to withdraw troops engaged in countering Islamic insurgents in the region.

According to reports from Reuters, Russian forces are present at Airbase 101 in Niger’s capital, Niamey, but are not interacting with American troops. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured that the presence of Russian troops does not pose a risk to US forces, as they are situated in a separate compound without access to American personnel or equipment.

Niger, located in Africa’s Sahel region, has been a key base for US operations in monitoring regional jihadist activity. However, relations between the US and Niger’s ruling military regime have soured since the condemnation of last year’s coup, prompting Niger to seek assistance from Russia in combating Islamist insurgents.

The Russian troops deployed to Airbase 101 are reportedly military trainers and occupy a wing close to the contingent of US troops. While it is unclear how many Russian troops are currently stationed in Niger, earlier estimates suggested around 60 personnel. The exact number of remaining American troops at the airbase is also unspecified, although most US forces in Niger are reportedly stationed at a drone base in the city of Agadez.

Tensions between the US and Russia have escalated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with Western efforts to support Ukraine exacerbating the strain. However, analysts see no immediate confrontation between US and Russian troops in Niger. Despite efforts by the US to maintain a presence in Niger, the country’s military leadership has favored Russian assistance due to its non-involvement in governance matters.

The withdrawal of US troops from Niger follows similar actions in Chad, where concerns over the presence of foreign forces were raised ahead of upcoming elections. Several countries in the Sahel region have strengthened ties with Russia while distancing themselves from former colonial power France, aiming to address the Islamist insurgency independently.

US Africa Command expresses a desire to engage with Niger and Chad, emphasizing the threat posed by violent extremist organizations to Africa’s stability. Efforts to facilitate dialogue with military-run countries and transition them towards democracy remain a priority for the US, amid regional challenges and geopolitical shifts in the Sahel.

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