Niger: Unlike France, the United States wants to stay

Niger: Unlike France, the United States wants to stay

The United States should not follow France’s military withdrawal, it wants to maintain its drone base in Agadez.

Low profile. Since July 26, the date of the coup d’état in Niger, Washington has been walking on eggshells in the Sahel and has clearly marked its difference from France.

The only thing in common between Paris and Washington, they called for the restoration of constitutional order in the first hours of the coup d’état… And that’s it. Indeed, if Paris continues to hammer home its opposition to the military junta and tries to mobilize the other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with a view to a military intervention in Niger, Washington , plays it clearly more realpolitik.

The main Western actor

It must be said that unlike France, the United States is not targeted by a hostile “popular” campaign. However, the first international appeal by ousted President Mohamed Bazoum was launched in the United States in the columns of the Washington Post on August 3. The head of state, still detained with his wife and son in his residence, recalled: “The United States, the African Union and the European Union as well as the Community of West African States have said it loud and clear: an end must be put to this coup d’état..

President Bazoum set the tone. Although he mentioned the United States, he never mentioned France specifically. The deposed Nigerien head of state, a great friend of Emmanuel Macron, did not find it wise to publicly call on Paris for help. Criticized by the demonstrators, singled out by a number of neighboring countries, France now appears to be a foil, part of the problem and not a player in the solution.

Washington, for its part, continued its policy of small steps, refusing statements hostile to the junta, opting for its own timetable. “In general, in this region, France and the United States tend to walk hand in hand”, recently explained Nina Wilèn, Africa director of the Egmont Institute, based in Brussels. “What is very surprising is France’s lack of discernment”continues an African diplomat who has been predicting the current development of the situation in the Sahel for many months.

In this context, Washington, unlike Paris which announced the withdrawal of its men and finally recalled its ambassador, who returned to the country this Wednesday, explained that it was studying different options. Since the July 26 coup, American troops, approximately 1,100 men, including around a hundred special forces, have been very discreet. At the end of July, part of the small contingent based in the suburbs of Niamey was repositioned in the Agadez base further north. Objectives: not to expose themselves in the capital and guarantee the security of this base considered essential in the fight against jihadists.

Very strategic position

Niger, with its 7 borders in a region disrupted by these jihadist movements, has become a strategic position. The country makes it easy to keep an eye on Libya, where mercenaries from the Wagner group are deployed, but also on Algeria, a country with which Washington is trying to strengthen ties, or on Nigeria, the great western regional power. Africa, home to numerous jihadist factions of several persuasions, without forgetting Mali and Burkina Faso, the two other countries in the Sahel where soldiers have taken power and do not hide their sympathy for Moscow. Wagner is in northern Mali and is putting pressure on the Burkinabe junta to settle in Ouagadougou.

The United States is therefore determined to stay in Niger, the junta knows it. She also understood that the Americans, while they can accept certain developments, categorically refuse that Moscow, through its “big guns”, can replace France. The score in this region is absolutely precise. The messages got through. The Nigerien junta is entitled to no false note and finds itself stuck between Moscow and Washington despite itself.

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