French troops begin withdrawal from Niger

2023 10 10NIGER SECURITY FRANCE scaled
A convoy of French troops based in Niger drives by as they prepare to leave Niger, in Niamey, October 10, 2023. REUTERS/Mahamadou Hamidou

French military personnel have commenced the process of withdrawing from Niger. The initial convoy of troops has been accompanied by Niger’s own military forces as it moved towards Chad, as reported by officials in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

On Tuesday, pickup trucks and armoured vehicles, carrying French soldiers, were seen across the outskirts of Niamey, marking the beginning of the departure, which was demanded by Niger’s military leadership following their seizure of power in July.

In a statement broadcast on state television, Niger’s military requested cooperation from the citizens in facilitating this troop movement, which involves around 1,500 French soldiers departing Niger by road. This journey spans hundreds of kilometers and, at times, goes through areas that can be considered insecure.

Apart from the ground withdrawal, “three special flights” have been scheduled at Niamey’s airport, two of them for transporting 97 special forces elements and one specifically for logistical purposes.

The French forces’ withdrawal was called for by Niger’s new governing military leaders after their rise to power on July 26. French President Emmanuel Macron subsequently confirmed their departure at the end of September. Approximately 1,000 French troops were stationed in Niamey, with an additional 400 positioned at two forward bases in the northwest, near Mali and Burkina Faso, regions characterized by insurgent activities.

The United States officially declared on Tuesday that Niger’s democratically elected president had been removed in a military coup, and this will lead to the suspension of assistance to Niger, as all available roads to preserve constitutional order were exhausted. The decision restricts the kind of assistance that Washington can provide to Niger, as it became apparent that the military government was not inclined to adhere to constitutional guidelines aimed at reinstating civilian and democratic governance.

The US State Department announced that the approximately $200 million in foreign assistance has been officially suspended. Any resumption of US assistance would necessitate steps taken towards democratic governance in a credible timeframe.

Despite the coup designation and the suspension of aid, the US currently has no intentions of altering its troop presence in the country that were merely rerouted from the capital to be stationed in Agadez. For the past decade, US troops have been involved in training Nigerien forces in counterterrorism and have operated two military bases, one of which conducts drone missions against rebel groups affiliated with ISIS and al-Qaeda. Presently, there are approximately 1,000 US Department of Defence personnel stationed in Niger.



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