US troops withdraw from first base in Niger

U.S. troops formally withdrew from a major air base in Niger on Monday, the first of two bases to be evacuated by American forces after Niamey fell to a military coup in 2023 and Nigerien officials ordered Washington to leave.

American forces left Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey, after a ceremony formalizing the departure of the troops, according to U.S. Africa Command (Africom).

The last aircraft to leave, an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transportation plane, departed Monday.

The U.S. will leave Air Base 201 in the city of Agadez in September.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman, Africom’s director of strategy, engagement and programs, said he was grateful for the orderly and safe withdrawal of American troops.

“Today we reflect positively on the past 15 years of security cooperation and shared sacrifice by U.S. forces and Nigerien forces,” Ekman said in a statement.

A military junta took control of Niger in July 2023, part of a series of Sahel countries falling to coups in recent years. Niamey has since grown closer to Russia.

The transition process to leave Air Base 101 began on May 19 when the U.S. and Niger signed a document stipulating the terms of withdrawal.

The U.S. withdrawal from Niger has sparked fears of a resurgence in extremist terrorist activity, including from groups affiliated with ISIS. American forces are in Africa and the Middle East to combat the Islamic State group and conduct counterterrorism operations.

Ekman said the U.S. will have to adjust its “presence and activities in West Africa to pursue mutual security objectives.”

“United States Africa Command will maintain our focus on building partner capacity and strengthening relationships and trust,” he said. “We are committed to listening to West African militaries to best support their partner-led, U.S. enabled operations to counter violent extremism and improve security and stability.”

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