GlobalNiger Military Junta Says US Military Presence No Longer Justified

Niger Military Junta Says US Military Presence No Longer Justified

The United States military presence in Niger is no longer justified, the African country’s military junta said on state television after holding high-level talks this week with American diplomats and military personnel.

Niger plays a central role in US military operations in Africa’s Sahel region and is home to a major air base. The United States is concerned about the spread of jihadist violence in the region, where local groups have pledged allegiance to extremist groups Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Reading the statement, junta spokesman Senior Col. Amadou Abdramane came close to saying that U.S. forces should leave. He indicated that Niger was suspending military cooperation with Washington and added that the flights that the United States carried out in recent weeks over the country’s territory were illegal.

In recent years, the U.S. military began operating a major air base in the Nigerien city of Agadez, about 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital Niamey, using it to conduct manned and unmanned surveillance flights as well as other operations. .

The United States has also spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars training the Nigerien military. Some of those forces participated in the overthrow of Mohammed Bazoum, the democratically elected president of Niger.

In October, Washington officially designated the military’s takeover as a coup, prompting the enactment of laws in the United States restricting military support and aid that can be provided to Niger. But in December, Molly Phee, the top U.S. envoy for Africa, stressed that the United States was willing to restore aid and security ties if Niger met certain conditions.

The spokesman for Niger’s military junta indicated that the US tone was condescending and threatened Niger’s sovereignty. Since the coup d’├ętat in July, the country ended its security partnership with the European Union, and France withdrew its troops from the country.

Phee and Army Gen. Michael Langley, director of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, were in Niamey this week to meet with high-level Nigerien government officials. Phee did not respond to an email request for comment from him.

In December, the US military had about 650 personnel working in Niger, according to a White House report presented to Congress.

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Associated Press writer Jessica Donati in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

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