Russian forces are operating at same base as US troops in Niger

Russian forces are operating at same base as US troops in Niger
  • PublishedMay 3, 2024


Russian and US troops have been operating out of the same military base in Niger for at least several weeks, a US defense official and another source familiar with the matter told CNN, putting the two militaries in close proximity to each other at a time of heightened tensions over the war in Ukraine and as the country’s ruling junta has made clear it wants US forces to leave.

The Russians have been using a separate hangar on the base, known as Air Base 101, the sources said, and are not operating in the same space as the Americans. But “it is not that big of an area,” one of the sources said.

The Russian presence at the basehas been a major point of contention between the US and Niger’s military junta, which seized power in a July 2023 coup. And it further underscores US officials’ concerns that Niger, which has served as a crucial foothold for US counterterrorism operations in the region for nearly a decade, is turning toward Russia.

In March, US diplomatic and military officials including Gen. Michael Langley, commander of US Africa Command, and Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, visited Niger and expressed concern about the escalating Russian military presence in the country. They also raised questions about the future of Air Base 101 and whether it would be ceded to the Russians, CNN previously reported.

The meeting was tense, officials said at the time, and just a few days later Niger announced that it was ending the accord that has allowed US military personnel and civilian staff to operate in the country since 2014.

The US military is now working with Nigerien officials to carry out an orderly withdrawal of troops from the country, the Pentagon has confirmed. The US will be sending another delegation to Niger “hopefully … this week” to further discuss the withdrawal of US troops there, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a briefing on Wednesday. The US is still trying to get clearance from the Nigerien government for military flights in and out of the country.

Reuters first reported that the Russians troops had entered Air Base 101.

The intensifying military cooperation between Russia and Niger has been central to the dispute between the US and the Nigerien junta, CNN has reported. Russia and Niger agreed to strengthen their military ties in January, Russia’s Defense Ministry said at the time. Russian media reported on April 11 that Russia was sending equipment and 100 military trainers to Niger, though one of the sources said Russian troops were in the country well before April.

Meanwhile, the US military has already withdrawn troops from a French military base in Chad after the country demanded they leave last month, a Pentagon spokesperson and other sources familiar with the matter told CNN on Wednesday. More than half of the US troops stationed at the French military base in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, have now left the country and relocated to Germany.

SOURCE: CNNNEWS

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