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US military will complete withdrawal from Niger by mid-September: Pentagon

U.S. troops ordered to leave Niger by the West African ruling regime will complete their withdrawal by mid-September, Pentagon and Nigerian defense officials announced Sunday.

The schedule was the result of four days of talks between defense officials from both countries in the capital Niamey, a joint statement said.

Niger’s decision to remove U.S. troops is a blow to U.S. military operations in the Sahel, a vast area south of the Sahara Desert where groups associated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State operate.

The rupture in military cooperation followed the ousting of the country’s democratically elected president by rebel fighters in July last year. A few months later, the ruling military government asked French troops to leave and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance.

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Supporters of Niger’s ruling military junta gather at a protest to fight for the country’s freedom and counter foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, August 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

In October, Washington formally recognized the military takeover as a coup, triggering a U.S. law that limits military aid and aid that can be provided to Niger.

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Nigerians take to the streets to protest against the U.S. military presence in Niamey, Niger, on April 13, 2024. (Reuters/Mahamadou Hamidou/File photo)

There are still about 1,000 U.S. troops stationed in Niger, most of them at an air base near Agadez, about 920 kilometers from the capital.

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Until recently, the U.S. government considered Niger a key partner and ally in a region where coups have occurred in recent years, and invested millions of dollars in the Agadez base, which is critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. Was. The United States has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

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The Pentagon announced that the United States will relocate most of its approximately 100 troops currently deployed to neighboring Chad for the time being. However, talks are expected to resume next month regarding amending the agreement to allow the US military to remain in Chad.

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