Russian, US troops operating at same base in Niger

The presence of Russian troops at the base has fueled tensions between the US and Niger’s military junta, which seized power in a coup in July 2023…reports Asian Lite News

Russian and US troops have been operating out of the same military base in Niger for several weeks, according to a US defence official and another source familiar with the situation, as reported by CNN.

This development places the two military forces in close proximity amid heightened tensions surrounding the conflict in Ukraine and the junta’s resistence on the withdrawal of US forces from the country.

While both Russian and US troops operate out of Air Base 101 in Niger, they utilise separate facilities. The Russians occupy a distinct hangar on the base, ensuring physical separation from American personnel. However, given the limited space, the proximity between the two forces remains notable.

The presence of Russian troops at the base has fueled tensions between the US and Niger’s military junta, which seized power in a coup in July 2023. It raises concerns among US officials about Niger’s potential pivot towards Russia, particularly considering the country’s historical role as a vital hub for US counterterrorism efforts in the region.

In March, US diplomatic and military representatives, including Gen Michael Langley and Celeste Wallander, voiced apprehension during their visit to Niger about the escalating Russian military presence. Questions arose regarding the fate of Air Base 101 and the possibility of it being transferred to Russian control, CNN previously reported.

Following the tense meeting, Niger announced its decision to terminate the agreement allowing US military personnel and civilian staff to operate in the country since 2014. Consequently, the US military is collaborating with Nigerien authorities to facilitate an orderly withdrawal of troops from the nation, confirmed by the Pentagon.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh stated that another US delegation is scheduled to visit Niger “hopefully … this week” to discuss further the withdrawal process. However, military flights in and out of the country are contingent upon clearance from the Nigerien government.

The deepening military cooperation between Russia and Niger has been a focal point of contention between the US and the Nigerien junta. Russia’s Defense Ministry announced in January an agreement to bolster military ties with Niger, while Russian media disclosed plans to dispatch equipment and 100 military trainers to the country. Nonetheless, sources indicate that Russian troops had been present in Niger before April.

In a separate development, the US military has commenced withdrawing troops from a French military base in Chad following the government’s demand for their departure last month. Over half of the US troops stationed at the base in N’Djamena have relocated to Germany, CNN reported. (ANI)

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