Military operations in the region are at risk because of the end of cooperation with the U

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The United States scrambled on Sunday to assess the future of its counterterrorism operations in the Sahel after Niger’s junta said it was ending its yearslong military cooperation with Washington following a visit by top U.S. officials.
The U.S. military has hundreds of troops stationed at a major airbase in northern Niger that deploys flights over the vast Sahel region — south of the Sahara Desert — where jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group operate.
READ MORE: Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso withdraw from West Africa bloc over sanctions to reverse coupsTop U.S. envoy Molly Phee returned to the capital, Niamey, this week to meet with senior government officials, accompanied by Marine Gen. Michael Langley, head of the U.S. military’s African Command.
She had previously visited in December, while acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled to the country in August.
The State Department said Sunday in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that talks were frank and that it was in touch with the junta.
It wasn’t clear whether the U.S. has any leeway left to negotiate a deal to stay in the country.
Niger had been seen as one of the last nations in the restive region that Western nations could partner with to beat back growing jihadi insurgencies.
The U.S. and France had more than 2,500 military personnel in the region until recently, and together with other European countries had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance and training.
But that changed in July when mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president and months later asked French forces to leave.
The U.S. military still had some 650 personnel working in Niger in December, according to a White House report to Congress.
The Niger base is used for both manned and unmanned surveillance operations.
In the Sahel the U.S. also supports ground troops, including accompanying them on missions.
However, such accompanied missions have been scaled back since U.S. troops were killed in a joint operation in Niger in 2017.
It’s unclear what prompted the junta’s decision to suspend military ties.
On Saturday, the junta’s spokesperson, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane, said U.S. flights over Niger’s territory in recent weeks were illegal.
Meanwhile, Insa Garba Saidou, a local activist who assists Niger’s military rulers with their communications, criticized U.S. efforts to force the junta to pick between strategic partners.
“The American bases and civilian personnel cannot stay on Nigerien soil any longer,” he told The Associated Press.
After her trip in December, Phee, the top U.S. envoy, told reporters she had “good discussions” with junta leaders and called on them to set a timeline for elections in return for restoring military and aid ties.
But she also said the U.S. had warned Niamey against forging closer ties with Russia.
Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, which have experienced two coups each since 2020, have turned to Moscow for security support.
After the coup in Niger, the military also turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for help.
WATCH: Coup in Niger puts U.S. efforts to thwart terrorism in Africa’s Sahel region at riskCameron Hudson, who served with the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department in Africa, said the incident shows the diminution of U.S. leverage in the region and that Niger was angered by Washington’s attempt to pressure the junta to steer clear of Russia.
“This is ironic since one mantra of the Biden Administration has been that Africans are free to choose their partners,” he said.
The U.S. delegation visit coincided with the start of Ramadan, a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting and intense prayer for Muslims.
Niger’s junta leader, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, refused to meet them.
A U.S. press conference at the embassy in Niger was canceled.
The junta spokesperson, speaking on state television, said junta leaders met the U.S. delegation only out of courtesy and described their tone as condescending.
Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department official who specialized in African affairs and director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group, said the recent visit had failed and the U.S. needs to take a critical look at how it’s doing diplomacy not just in Niger but in the whole region.
“What’s going on in Niger and the Sahel cannot be looked at continuously in a vacuum as we always do,” she said.
“The United States government tends to operate with blinders on.
We can’t deny that our deteriorating relationships in other parts of the world: the Gulf, Israel and others, all have an influential impact on our bilateral relations in countries in West Africa.”Mednick reported from Jerusalem.
AP diplomatic correspondent Matthew Lee contributed from Frankfurt, Germany.

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — After a visit by a top U.S. official, the junta in Niger announced that it was terminating its years-long military cooperation with Washington, prompting the United States to scramble on Sunday to evaluate the future of its counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. S. authorities.

The US. s. The military operates flights over the vast Sahel region, which is south of the Sahara Desert and home to jihadi groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Hundreds of troops are stationed at a major airbase in northern Niger.

READ MORE: Sanctions to undo coups force Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso to leave the West African bloc.

Head U. s. Envoy Molly Phee, accompanied by Marine Gen., made a return visit to the capital, Niamey, this week to meet with top government officials. Michael Langley, the leader of the U.S. s. armed forces’ African Command. While acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited in August, she had already been there in December.

The State Department confirmed on Sunday that it was in communication with the junta and that the talks were open in a post on X, the former Twitter platform. It was unclear if the U.S. S. retains the flexibility to work out a plan to remain in the nation.

In order to counter the increasingly violent jihadi insurgencies, Niger was thought to be among the few countries in the unstable area that the West could cooperate with. The U.S. S. Until recently, France maintained a military presence in the region with over 2,500 personnel, and the country, along with other European nations, had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on military aid and training.

That changed, however, in July when mutinous soldiers overthrew the nation’s democratically elected president and, months later, demanded the withdrawal of French forces.

The US. s. A December White House report to Congress stated that the military still employed about 650 people in Niger. Both manned and unmanned surveillance missions are carried out out of the Niger base. Within the Sahel, the U. s. helps ground forces by going on missions with them, among other things. But these accompanied missions have decreased since U.S. s. 2017 saw the deaths of soldiers during a coordinated operation in Niger.

The reason behind the junta’s decision to cut military ties is unknown. Speaking on behalf of the junta on Saturday, Col. Maj. Says U. Amadou Abdramane. s. In recent weeks, there have been illegal flights over Niger’s territory. Local activist Insa Garba Saidou, who helps the military rulers of Niger with their communications, chastised U. S. attempts to make the junta choose between different strategic allies.

He told The Associated Press that “American bases and civilian personnel cannot stay on Nigerien soil any longer.”.

Following her trip in December, Phee—the leading U. s. envoy informed reporters that she had had “good discussions” with the leaders of the junta and asked them to schedule elections in exchange for the restoration of aid and military relations. But she added, “The U. s. had advised Niamey against developing stronger connections with Russia.

Moscow has become the go-to source for security assistance in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, which have each seen two coups since 2020. The military also looked to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for assistance following the coup in Niger.

GALLERY: Niger coup places U. s. efforts to stop terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa at jeopardy.

Cameron Hudson, a former State Department and Central Intelligence Agency employee in Africa, claimed the episode demonstrated the decline of U.S. s. leverage in the area, and that Washington’s attempt to exert pressure on the junta to avoid Russia infuriated Niger. “This is ironic considering that the Biden Administration has made it a point to allow Africans to select their partners,” he remarked.

The US. s. The start of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and intense prayer for Muslims, fell on the same day as the delegation’s visit. Niger’s head of the junta, Gen. They were refused entry by Abdourahmane Tchiani. An U. S. There was no press conference held at the Niger embassy.

On state television, the junta spokesperson claimed that leaders of the junta met with the U. S. claimed that their tone was patronizing and that they were only being polite.

Aneliese Bernard was a U.S. S. An official from the State Department with expertise in African affairs and director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group, stated that the recent visit was unsuccessful and the U.S. s. should critically examine its diplomatic efforts throughout the region, not only in Niger.

“We cannot continue to look at what’s happening in Niger and the Sahel in the same vacuum that we always do,” she stated. The government of the United States of America frequently acts in denial. There’s no denying that our failing relationships elsewhere in the world—the Gulf, Israel, and other regions—have a significant effect on our bilateral ties with West African nations. “.

Mednick provided updates from Jerusalem. From Frankfurt, Germany, AP diplomatic correspondent Matthew Lee provided coverage.

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