U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts In Peril

Following Niger’s junta’s announcement that it would be terminating its years-long military collaboration with Washington, the US is evaluating its counterterrorism activities in the Sahel. 

There are hundreds of American soldiers stationed at a large airport in northern Niger. These planes fly over the expansive Sahel area, which is located south of the Sahara Desert and is home to jihadi organizations associated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State. 

The U.S. military chief of staff for Africa, Marine Gen. Michael Langley, and top U.S. envoy Molly Phee, triumphantly returned to Niamey for meetings with high-ranking government officials. The State Department claimed to be in contact with the junta and stated that discussions were candid. The United States’ remaining negotiating space to stay in the nation remained unclear.

Niger was considered by many as one of the few countries in the volatile area that the West might form an alliance with to combat the spread of jihadist insurgencies. Up until very recently, the United States and France maintained a military presence in the region with over 2,500 troops, and they and other European nations had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on military aid and training. But that all changed in July when a group of rebel troops deposed the democratically elected president and called on the French to withdraw their forces months later. A report from the White House to Congress states that in December, there were still around 650 American soldiers working in Niger.

U.S. aircraft over Niger’s territory in the past several weeks were deemed unlawful, according to the junta’s spokeswoman, Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane. An activist in Niger who helps the military authorities communicate, Insa Garba Saidou, has spoken out against American attempts to make the junta choose between vital allies.