US General and Officials Visit Niger Amid Political Turmoil

A delegation of top US officials, including General Michael Langley from the US Africa Command, arrived in Niger on Tuesday to engage with the ruling junta, signaling renewed contact following the recent political upheaval in the country.

The visit, scheduled through Wednesday, comes at a critical juncture after the junta ousted the elected leader, expelled French forces, and signaled closer ties with Russia.

According to a statement by the State Department, the US delegation aims to hold discussions with the junta regarding “Niger’s return to a democratic path and the future of our security and development partnership.”

Despite strained relations following the coup, the United States maintains a significant military presence in Niger, with approximately 1,000 troops stationed at a desert drone base constructed at a cost of $100 million. However, assistance to the government has been curtailed since the political transition.

The delegation’s visit underscores the US commitment to engage with Niger amidst the evolving political landscape and underscores the importance of democratic governance and security cooperation in the region.

The political turmoil in Niger took a dramatic turn when the military removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power and placed him under house arrest, just months after Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit aimed at strengthening ties with Bazoum’s administration.

In addition to the expulsion of French troops, the junta has sought closer ties with Russia, diverging from the Western security alliances prevalent in the region. However, unlike neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger’s military has not called for the withdrawal of US forces.

Accompanying General Langley in the delegation are high-ranking officials including Molly Phee, the top State Department official for Africa, and Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

The outcome of the discussions between the US delegation and the ruling junta will be closely watched as Niger navigates its path towards democratic governance and security cooperation amidst shifting geopolitical dynamics.

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