US set to declare Niger takeover a coup – CNN
US President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly preparing to officially designate July’s military takeover of Niger’s government a coup d’etat, a legal step that will limit Washington’s ability to collaborate with the West African nation on counterterrorism operations in the region.
The US State Department will announce suspension of some assistance to Niger as a result of the coup designation, CNN reported on Friday, citing two unidentified sources familiar with the administration’s plans. “As we continue our diplomatic engagements to preserve civilian rule in Niger, we are continuing to assess additional next steps but have nothing to preview at this time,” a department spokesperson said.
Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted on July 26, and the new government suspended military cooperation agreements with France amid dissatisfaction over the West’s counter-insurgency operation in the Sahel region. The new rulers also expelled France’s ambassador, and French troops began withdrawing from Niger this week.
The US embassy in Niamey will continue to operate, while the Pentagon is assessing how the coup designation will affect its approximately 1,000 troops stationed in Niger, according to the CNN report. Washington is unlikely to withdraw all of its forces from the country, but those who remain will work in a more limited role of intelligence-gathering, the outlet said.
US economic and security assistance to Niger may be halted. Funding to help support the country’s military could be prohibited under the coup designation.
Washington has several military bases in Niger, including at least two drone bases, to support counterterrorism missions in the Sahel. US troops have worked closely with French forces in the region. They ostensibly operate in the country to help the Nigerien military to combat terrorism and expand its capabilities.
The Pentagon said last month that it was moving forces from an airport near Niamey to an air base in Agadez, about 920 kilometers (570 miles) northeast of the capital. Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh called the move “precautionary,” saying there was no threat to American troops. “Our force posture hasn’t changed,” she added.