Russian military personnel enter Niger airbase where some U.S. troops remain

5/2: CBS Morning News

5/2: CBS Morning News 20:14

Russian military personnel entered an airbase in Niger where some U.S. troops are located, two U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News.

Russians have been in Niger for several weeks as the U.S. negotiates the withdrawal of its troops from two airbases in Niger, one of the officials said. Described by a second official as “trainers,” said the Russians are located around two miles from where a small number of U.S. troops are based at Niamey’s international airport. Most of the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops still in Niger are at a second airbase about 500 miles away from the capital, in the city of Agadez.

Before a coup in Niger in July 2023 led to the demand that American troops leave the country, the U.S. used the two bases to fly drones on counterterrorism missions in the Sahel region of Africa. 

Niger
Protesters gather as a man holds up a sign demanding that U.S. Army soldiers leave Niger during a demonstration in Niamey, on April 13, 2024.  AFP via Getty Images

The Russian presence on the base comes as tensions remain high between Washington and Moscow over the ongoing U.S. support for Ukraine’s military.

A few months after the coup, the ruling junta asked French forces to leave and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance.

In October, Washington officially designated the military takeover as a coup, which triggered U.S. laws restricting the military support and aid that it can provide to Niger. Since then, diplomatic efforts to restore ties with Niger have been unsuccessful.

Until recently, Washington considered Niger a key partner and ally in a region swept by coups in recent years, investing millions of dollars in the Agadez base, which has been critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. The U.S. also has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

The Pentagon also has said the U.S. will relocate most of the approximately 100 troops it has deployed in neighboring Chad for now. Chad is also considering whether to continue its security agreement with the U.S.

Reporting contributed by Eleanor Watson

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