The United States military has resumed its operations in Niger, including drone flights, after a hiatus caused by a coup over a month ago, according to General James Hecker, head of Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
In the wake of the July coup, which removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power, approximately 1,100 U.S. soldiers stationed in Niger had been confined to their military bases. However, recent negotiations with Niger’s military rulers have led to the resumption of some intelligence and surveillance missions.
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General Hecker explained the situation at the annual Air and Space Forces Association convention: “For a while, we weren’t doing any missions on the bases; they pretty much closed down the airfields.
Through the diplomatic process, we are now doing, I wouldn’t say 100 per cent of the missions that we were doing before, but we’re doing a large number of tasks that we were doing before.” He added that these flights, including both crewed and unmanned missions, resumed “within the last couple of weeks.”
As part of the shift, some U.S. forces were relocated from Air Base 101 near Niamey, the capital of Niger, to Airport 201 in Agadez, located approximately 570 miles northeast of Niamey.
Niger has played a crucial role as a regional outpost for the U.S. military, particularly in its armed drone patrols and operations against insurgent and rebel groups operating in the region. The West African region has witnessed over 1,800 rebel attacks in the first half of this year, resulting in nearly 4,600 casualties, as reported by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
France, with about 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger, remains supportive of the deposed President Bazoum and has declared the coup and its officials illegitimate. Niger’s military leadership has also called for the French military to exit the country.
Speculation is rife that France may consider a complete military withdrawal, with talks ongoing between the French army and Niger’s military about potentially reducing its presence in the country.
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