US military completing withdrawal from African base

Lazy eyes listen


The withdrawal of American servicemen from Air Base 101 in Niger is almost complete, US Air Force Major General Kenneth Ekman has said.

A farewell ceremony dedicated to the departure of the last C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft from the base, located next to the international airport in the capital, Niamey, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Ekman told Reuters via video link on Friday.

“The government of Niger will assume control of former US areas and facilities” after US troops depart from the West African country, he stressed.

The new government, which came to power a year ago after ousting the pro-Western president, Mohamed Bazoum, told Washington earlier this year to remove its almost 1,000-strong contingent by September 15. Niamey said the Americans had failed in their promise to assist in fighting jihadi militants that have plagued the Sahel region for decades.

Despite the US pullout being incomplete, Russian instructors have already been deployed to Air Base 101 with the aim of providing training to Niger’s military, according to Reuters.

When I last talked to a Nigerian interlocutor, he quantified the presence of Russian forces as under 100. And he also talked about when the Russians are done training them, they have told the Russians that they have to go home,” said Ekman, who is overseeing the departure of the American troops from the country.

The US will next focus on clearing Air Base 201, a $100-million drone facility near the city of Agadez in central Niger, he said. The withdrawal from the facility will likely be completed in August, ahead of schedule, the major general added.

According to Ekman, morale of the US troops at the two bases is “mixed” due to uncertainty caused by the pullout. “When you have a session with airmen and soldiers, you get everything from laughter to tears,” he said. The major general described the development as “really unfortunate” for relations between Washington and Niamey.

US servicemen are leaving the bases in good condition and only removing valuable equipment from them, Ekman stressed. Acting differently would be “foreclosing options that both nations need for the future. And our security objectives are still entwined,” he explained.

The new government in Niamey ha also severed ties with its former colonial ruler, France, which resulted in all French soldiers leaving the country by the end of 2023.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this year that Moscow would continue its work to help Sahel countries to boost their combat capability, security forces, and law enforcement agencies, with the goal of strengthening regional security.