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American Military Bases in Niger

France has had a strong military presence in Niger as well as several other countries in the region. Currently, the French military is conducting a counterterror operation called Barkhane in the Sahel region, which includes Niger. The U.S. military said it has been working closely with French troops in the area to better coordinate military efforts against militant groups. This mission is critical to the security of countries in the region, European allies and the United States. The US provides support to French counterterrorism operations, including ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance], aerial refueling and other logistics support.

The U.S. started operating ISR drones in Niamey in 2013, in support of the French military operations in neighboring Mali and "other regional requirements", according to the U.S. Air Force. As of 2019 the US had about 800 Department of Defense personnel in Niger, who train, advise and assist the countrys security forces in their counterterrorism operations, making it the second-largest U.S. personnel deployment in Africa after Djibouti, where the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is headquartered. These forces secure national strategic interests in Niger by working with and through allies and partners to deny safe havens to terrorists with global reach, and disrupting their ability to direct or support external operations against the U.S. homeland and its citizens, allies and partners overseas.

In coordination with the government of Niger, U.S. Africa Command has armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft already in Niger to improve our combined ability to respond to threats and other security issues in the region. The U.S. military has confirmed the deployment of armed drones to Niger in an effort to respond to growing threats in the region.

By August 2018 the U.S. Air Force was months away from completing the construction of an air base in Niger for armed drones that will target militant groups operating in the region. To date, the Air Force had spent approximately $86.5 million on the construction project at Nigerien Air Base 201, otherwise known as Mano Dayak International Airport. "The total estimated construction cost, including FY19 planned projects, is $98.5 million. The base, which is located in Agadez city in northern Niger, is the biggest U.S Air Force-led construction project in its history. Agadez is a strategic city located in the Sahara Desert with easy access for militants and smugglers to cross to and from Libya, Algeria, Mali and Chad. About 650 U.S. military personnel will be deployed to the base once it's operational. An undetermined number of military drones, including MQ-9s, currently operating from the capital, Niamey, would be transferred to the base, according to the U.S military.

The new U.S.-constructed air base in Agadez, Niger, is now fully operational, carrying out its first unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights in October 2019. The U.S military said the decision to relocate assets from Niamey to Agadez and to construct the base there was reached in consultation and coordination with the government of Niger. The government of Niger requested U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] to relocate ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] assets from Niamey to Agadez. The move could be part of an effort by the U.S military to have a low profile presence in the region without triggering potential opposition from the local population. The Agadez base has the advantage of making the U.S presence less visible, far from Niger capital, Niamey. This is important, given the clear opposition a significant part of the Niger [population] have voiced about the increasing Western presence in the country.

Defense Minister Mountari said the presence of these foreign troops are necessary and critical in the country's ongoing fight against terror and other trans-national criminal groups. "We requested the current [U.S] operations ourselves. Everything has been done with the knowledge and cooperation and at the request of our government because it is for the good of our country," Mountari said. "Our Agadez base is obsolete with no good runway or navigational equipment. That's why we encouraged the work the U.S. is doing to rebuild Agadez air base since it has become a hub for our fight against terrorists," he added.

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Page last modified: 26-12-2019 18:26:02 ZULU