France is planning to intervene in Niger, as it continues to deploy troops to several countries in the region, the West African state’s military government has claimed. Relations between Niger and former colonial power France have deteriorated since a coup in July.
Media reports including reports by AFP said:
“France continues to deploy its forces in several ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) countries as part of preparation for an aggression against Niger, which it is planning in collaboration with this community-organization,” Colonel Amadou Abdramane, spokesman for the government in Niamey, said in a statement broadcast on national television on Saturday.
ECOWAS has threatened to intervene in the country to restore its ousted president Mohamed Bazoum to office. Top French officials have also stated several times that Paris would support military action by the bloc.
However, according to Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, military action by ECOWAS is not supported by all member states. He also told the media on Monday that the new government in Niamey was hoping to reach an agreement with the bloc in the “coming days.”
Nigerien military leaders have previously denounced the presence of French troops in the country as “illegal” and demanded their prompt withdrawal.
While speaking during the G20 summit in New Delhi, French President Emmanuel Macron said that since his country does not recognize the Nigerien military government, any redeployment of its forces might be done only “at the request of President Bazoum.”
France already had to withdraw troops from Burkina Faso earlier this year.
France also pulled its forces out of Mali following tensions with the military government after a coup in 2020.
France To Pull Troops Out Of Niger Only If Requested By Ousted President, Says Macron
Earlier media reports said:
France does not recognize Niger’s rebel authorities and, therefore, will agree to withdraw its troops from the country only if requested to do so by ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.
“French troops were deployed on the territory of Niger at the request of Niger itself. France’s position is simple: we condemn it [the military takeover], we demand the release of President Bazoum and the restoration of constitutional order, and we do not recognize the legitimacy of the rebels’ statements. And if we ever redeploy troops, we will do so at the request of President Bazoum,” Macron said at the G20 Summit in New Delhi.
U.S. To Cut Military Presence In Niger, Reports Politico
Citing two U.S. Defense Department officials, U.S. media Politico reported on Friday:
The U.S. has begun “repositioning” its troops in Niger and plans to cut their number “nearly in half” over the next several weeks,
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters on Thursday that some of the troops stationed at the airport in the country’s capital Niamey have already redeployed to the smaller base in Agadez around 500 miles (739km) away.
The U.S. and France sent troops and drones to Niger to counter Islamist insurgents who appeared throughout the Sahel after the 2011 NATO regime-change intervention in Libya.
The Nigerien military ousted U.S.-backed President Mohamed Bazoum in late July, accusing him of failure in the war on terrorism. The military government has since demanded the departure of French forces. Nearby Mali and Burkina Faso have also been taken over by military governments in recent years and likewise ousted the former colonial power.
The Pentagon has “suspended” the training of Nigerien forces, but is reluctant to leave the country altogether.
As part of the move, the U.S. will also reduce the overall number of troops in Niger from around 1,200 to somewhere between 500 and 1,000, one official told Politico.
“The number is not as important to us as the function they are performing,” the official explained.
Although Singh called the situation in Niger “relatively stable” and noted there was no “specific threat” to U.S. troops, one of Politico’s sources said the decision to redeploy was taken out of an abundance of caution, given the recent protests outside the French military base in Niamey.
Earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service warned that the U.S. might be preparing to assassinate the leaders of the military government in Niamey, as the threat of military intervention by the West African ECOWAS bloc has failed to sway them into restoring Bazoum.