Report: Joe Biden Officially Loses Niger, Orders All U.S. Troops Out

Protesters react as a man holds up a sign demanding that soldiers from the United States A
AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon has formally ordered all 1,000 American combat troops remaining in Niger to withdraw over the next few months, spelling the end of a vital counter-terrorism operation and giving Russia another victory over the West in its contest for African influence.

The Niger junta made its final decision to expel U.S. forces in the middle of April, but the Biden administration spent weeks pretending the orders had not been given and that Niger’s rulers could yet change their minds. Even if the junta insisted, the Biden team claimed it would take some time to complete negotiations for an “orderly and responsible withdrawal.”

On Friday, however, an unnamed U.S. official told Politico that the Defense Department had already instructed America’s one thousand soldiers in Niger to begin their departure preparations. The details remain vague, but, according to this official, it seems likely that only U.S. embassy security personnel will remain in Niger by the end of the summer.

All other U.S. troops are supposedly withdrawing to “other locations within the region from which they can still operate.” Niger was crucial to U.S. and European counter-terrorism efforts in the extremist-infested Sahel region, and American forces may also be evicted from Niger’s neighbor, Chad.

FILE - Supporters of Niger's ruling junta gather at the start of a protest called to fight for the country's freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, Aug. 3, 2023. As several European countries evacuate Niger, the Biden administration is showing itself unusually intent on staying. It sees Niger as the United States' last, best counterterrorism outpost — and until the coup, a promising democracy — in a region plagued by instability. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File)

Supporters of Niger’s ruling junta gather at the start of a protest called to fight for the country’s freedom and push back against foreign interference in Niamey, Niger, on August 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File)

Congressional Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for leaving American forces in a dangerous situation with an unclear mission and hazy future. In April, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said U.S. troops in Niger were effectively “hostages of an indecisive commander-in-chief,” President Joe Biden.

Gaetz added:

Our troops are currently sitting on a powder keg caused by political indecision at the top of the Department of State and Department of Defense. With a military junta in charge — who detests our presence and considers us unserious and predatory — the situation seems to be setting the groundwork for catastrophic diplomatic collapse like we saw during the 2012 Benghazi attack.

On May 3, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed that Russian troops had moved into Airbase 101, the facility in Niger’s capital city of Niamey, where American forces are based. A senior defense official said the Russians were living in a separate hangar on the airbase and avoiding contact with U.S. troops but admitted the situation was “not great.”

Critics of the Biden administration noted that U.S. forces were already running low on supplies and medicine, a situation that became even harder to remedy when the Russians moved in, and replacement soldiers could not be rotated into Niger.

The Russian presence is reportedly small, for the time being, about one hundred soldiers to America’s one thousand, but even a small force could engage in surveillance or provocations. Furthermore, some of the Russian force is apparently comprised of former Wagner Group mercenaries, a cohort not noted for its high level of discipline or restrained behavior.

Chris Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told CNN on Friday that discussions with the Niger regime are ongoing to “draw down to a level that the Nigeriens can live with” but keep a small counter-terrorism force in place.

Maier described the junta as “profound” in its determination to have American troops “depart, or at least go to very low numbers.” One of the major stumbling blocks is apparently the need for American planes to keep flying into Niger to supply even a very small holdout force.

An unnamed U.S. military official told CNN that, contrary to Maier’s statements, “the hope of having a small number of troops remaining in the country is largely wishful thinking at this point.”

Another bit of wishful thinking was Maier hoping that the Russians might screw up so badly that Niger and their African client states ask the U.S. to return:

Now some of these coup regimes have decided that they are going to go with the Russians, so now they’re the dog that caught the car. And if there aren’t results — not only security space, but a lot of the other things that are part of governance — then the facts will start to outstrip even the most sophisticated mis- and dis-information over time.

A report published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in April suggested Maier’s scenario is very unlikely unless Western nations grow more comfortable with military dictatorships.

The report noted that much of North Africa has become a “coup belt,” and military rulers tend to be nervous that American and European entanglements come with human-rights judgments and persistent demands to return to civilian rule. No such strings are attached to Russian military aid or Chinese money, so “predatory actors” are moving into the region, while jihadi groups are having a field day recruiting disaffected youth.


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