Niger: U.S. Begins Talks On Withdrawal of Troops From Niger

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday the U.S. has begun discussions with the military government of Niger about withdrawing of some 1,000 U.S. troop from two air bases in the nation.

Last month, the military junta that controls Niger announced it was ending the military agreement between the two nations and Pentagon officials agreed to the withdrawal late last week.

Monday, Pentagon spokesperson General Pat Ryder confirmed discussions had begun between the U.S. and Niger for “the orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.

Ryder said the U.S. Defense Department will send a small delegation that will include members of the U.S. Africa Command to Niger for the talks.

He said he could not speculate on a timeline for the withdrawal and there has been no change in the number of troops currently stationed in Niger.

The U.S. has about 1,000 soldiers divvied up between the two air bases in Niger – one in the capital, Niamey, and the other, a $110 million drone base built in the northern city of Agadez. The two bases are key to U.S. efforts to fighting terrorism in the region, and drone missions from the Agadez base target militants in the area.

The withdrawal decision is not a surprise. The commander of U.S. Air Forces Africa, General James Hecker told reporters in August — about three weeks following the coup that put the military junta in power — that his teams were already planning for a scenario in which the troops stationed there would have to leave.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Nigeriens marched through the streets of Agadez Sunday calling for the U.S. troops to leave. The protesters carried banners and chanted slogans. Reports say the march was staged shortly after the withdrawal agreement was reached.

Some information from this report was provided by Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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