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US General Visits Africa To Discuss Military Presence Shift

IN a rare visit to Africa, the top US general is exploring ways to maintain the US military presence in West Africa after Niger expelled US forces in favour of partnering with Russia, a significant setback for Washington. Air Force General C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Botswana on Monday for a gathering of African defence chiefs, where he plans to discuss regional partnerships.

‘I do see some opportunities. And there’s countries that we’re already working with in West Africa,’ Brown told reporters traveling with him. He suggested that existing relationships might offer alternatives to relocate capabilities previously based in Niger, although he did not specify which countries were under consideration. However, a US official revealed that initial conversations have taken place with Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana.


The US military’s presence in Niger, particularly Air Base 201 near Agadez, was crucial for counter-terrorism efforts against insurgents. The base, built at a cost of over $100 million, had been a key asset in the fight against militant groups that have caused significant loss of life and displacement in the region. The ejection from Niger means the US loses this strategic location, and replicating such a footprint elsewhere in the near future is unlikely.

Another US official, speaking anonymously, confirmed that there are no immediate plans for a large-scale military construction project or the relocation of US troops from Niger. ‘We do not expect a large military construction announcement or a significant new base to appear anywhere,’ the official said.

Political challenges in West Africa

The shifting political landscape in West and Central Africa presents a complex challenge for the United States. The region has experienced eight coups in the past four years, including in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The new military rulers in these countries are increasingly resistant to cooperating with Western nations and are turning towards Russia, which does not impose the same legal constraints on military support.

Catherine Nzuki from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies highlighted the strategic dilemma for the US. ‘The US had solid partners in the region,’ she said. ‘And now that the US has been pushed out of Niger, the question is whether we are losing allies in the region and if the changes are happening too rapidly for us to keep up.’

The US military is currently reassessing its objectives in light of these rapid changes. ‘We are doing some introspection right now and thinking about what our modified goals should be,’ said a second US official. The scope of America’s revised goals and their effectiveness in addressing the expanding threat from Islamist groups in the Sahel remains uncertain.

The US withdrawal from Niger is on track to be completed by the September 15 deadline, with around 600 troops still stationed at Air Base 101 near Niamey. As US forces exit, Russia has deployed military personnel to the same base for training activities, although US officials report no contact between American and Russian troops.

General Brown remains hopeful that future opportunities may arise to restore military ties with Niger. ‘We have an embassy there, so we still have relationships. And so I don’t know if the door is completely closed,’ Brown said. ‘If the opportunity presents itself to rebuild and strengthen the relationship, we’ll work with the rest of the US government to figure out how best to do that.’

This visit by General Brown underscores the strategic shifts and challenges the US faces in maintaining its influence and counter-terrorism efforts in West Africa amidst growing Russian presence.

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