US reaches agreement with Niger to withdraw military forces by Sep 15

World Monday 20/May/2024 08:39 AM
US reaches agreement with Niger to withdraw military forces by Sep 15

Niamey: The US has reached an agreement with Niger to withdraw its military forces from the African nation by September 15, according to the US Defence Department and the Nigerien Ministry of National Defence, CNN reported.

The newly agreed deadline gives the US four months to drawdown fewer than 1,000 troops who remain in the country, as well as their equipment, which includes MQ-9 Reaper drones and other assets.

Niger's military government announced in March that it had ended an accord with the US that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the Department of Defence to operate in the country.

The US delegation met with Niger's ruling military junta last week to try to reach an agreement that would allow for the secure withdrawal of US forces and for clearances for military flights. The flight clearances had been a sticking point in the sensitive negotiations needed to withdraw US forces.

Until now, US troops who have left Niger took commercial flights, including as recently as last week, according to US officials. The remaining troops on the ground are tasked with drawing down US personnel and equipment still in Niger.

The US delegation was led by Chris Meier, the assistant secretary of defence for special operations and low-intensity conflict. The Nigerien delegation was led by Col.-Maj. Mamane Sani Kiaou, the chief of staff of the Nigerian army, CNN reported.

"Both delegations confirmed the guarantees of protection and security to the American forces during their withdrawal. The delegations also established procedures to facilitate the entry and exit of US personnel, including overflight and landing clearances for military flights," the joint statement said.

A deepening divide between the US and the ruling military junta following the coup last July ultimately led to the withdrawal, as the Biden administration called for a path back to free and fair elections.

Rebuffing the calls, the military junta instead began partnering more with Russia, whose forces are now operating at the same base from which US forces are withdrawing, CNN reported.

The US and Niger said they would continue to work together on areas of "common interest."

"The United States and Niger are committed to ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations," the statement said.