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29 Mar, 2024 15:26

‘No decision’ on future of US troops in African state – Pentagon

Discussions are ongoing after Niger canceled a military cooperation deal with Washington, spokesperson Pat Ryder has said
‘No decision’ on future of US troops in African state – Pentagon

Washington has not made any decisions regarding the withdrawal of its forces from Niger, where the military government has terminated a decade-long cooperation deal with the US, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said at a briefing on Thursday.

Ryder made the comments in response to a question about the future of American troops in the West African nation.

“There’s been no decisions made at this stage on the movement of US forces,” Ryder told reporters.

Niger’s military authorities, who took power following a July coup, announced on March 16 that they were canceling a 2012 defense cooperation agreement that had allowed about 1,000 US soldiers and civilian contractors to operate in the landlocked country.

In a statement on national television in March, government spokesman Amadou Abdramane denounced the US troop presence as “illegal” because “it was not democratically approved and imposes unfavorable conditions on Niger.” 

The African nation’s military government has also accused a US delegation of attempting to influence Niger’s choice of partners in the fight against terrorism. American officials had earlier been in Niamey to negotiate the renewal of the security pact.

The Pentagon has rejected the accusations, with Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh claiming that the US had only expressed concerns about Niger’s growing ties with Russia and Iran.

Last week, Celeste Wallander, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the US was seeking clarification from Niamey regarding the decision and was working to find a way for American troops to remain in the former French colony.

Niger’s Interior Ministry reported on Wednesday that Washington had agreed to submit a proposal for “disengagement” of its troops. This was announced after Interior Minister General Mohamed Toumba met with US Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon to discuss the issue, according to a ministry statement.

On Thursday, Ryder said “there continues to be ongoing discussions” regarding intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism missions in the Sahel nation.