The United States is making preparations to evacuate two drone bases in Niger as a precautionary measure under the new military government, according to Air Force Gen. James Hecker. Hecker revealed that the Pentagon is exploring potential allies in northern Africa’s Sahel and Saharan regions where they can relocate their assets. However, he declined to name specific countries, highlighting that the decision on where to establish a new base will largely be subject to diplomatic discussions.
However, Hecker emphasized that the US has not yet determined whether to classify the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum by the Nigerien palace guard as a coup. This determination is crucial because labeling it as a coup would necessitate severing most of the military and security ties between the two nations.
The decision regarding the classification could take several weeks or even longer, Hecker explained. Regardless of the outcome, the US will inevitably experience an impact on its intelligence and counterterrorism operations in Niger. The evacuation plans devised by the military consider scenarios in which a hasty departure is required, with only essential equipment being taken. However, the hope is for a peaceful diplomatic resolution that would avert the need for evacuation.
Before the change in government, both the US and France had military troops stationed in Niger, with bases in Niamey and Agadez. The US is likely seeking to avoid a repeat of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which resulted in the Taliban gaining access to significant military equipment and leaving Afghan allies behind.
Neighboring countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have declared their intention to deploy a “Standby Force” to reinstate Bazoum to power. Their military intervention was threatened if Bazoum was not reinstated by a specified deadline, which has since passed. Burkina Faso and Mali, members of ECOWAS, have already warned that any military action against Niger would be seen as an act of war against themselves.
Niger’s military government has started recruiting volunteers to defend against a potential invasion and has allegedly issued a warning that Bazoum would be killed if there is an invasion. Western officials have reported this claim. The African Union has declined to support ECOWAS’ plans, while France has expressed support for the invasion. The US has not ruled out the possibility of supporting it.
In conclusion, the US is preparing to evacuate its drone bases in Niger as a precautionary measure under the new military government. The decision to classify the overthrow as a coup is pending, and it will have substantial implications for the military and security cooperation between the US and Niger. The US is also considering diplomatic options in other African regions for potential relocation of its assets. The situation in Niger remains tense as neighboring countries consider military intervention and Niger’s military government prepares to defend against any invasion.