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US acknowledges that Russian personnel are stationed at the same airfield in Niger as American troops

Defense Secretary claims the Russians are in a separate facility and are not able to access US personnel or equipment.

Russian security personnel have been stationed at the same airbase as American soldiers in the capital city of Niamey, Nigerien, according to confirmation provided by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The Russian forces have been in Niger for weeks, but it’s still unknown when they were assigned to Airbase 101, which is close to Niamey’s Diori Hamani International Airport. Furthermore, it’s unclear how many soldiers are actually deployed.

This is the most recent outcome of the coup that ousted Mohamed Bazoum, the president who was lawfully elected, in July of last year. Since then, the junta in Niger has started to reorganize its alliances with friends in the west. US and French troops have been requested to leave their sites. France has tense relations with several of the nations in the region, the majority of which were once its colonies.

Russia has been reviving contacts from the Cold War and, in certain circumstances, offering African leaders incentives for “regime stabilization” as part of its ongoing efforts to expand its influence over sections of the continent. The Wagner mercenary organization has mostly served as the public face of Moscow’s involvement.

Following the coup, the US military in Niger relocated part of its personnel from Airbase 101 to Airbase 201 in Agadez. What US military hardware is still there at Airbase 101 is unknown.

At a cost of more than £80 million, the US constructed Airbase 201 in central Niger. Drones have been used to strike the Islamic State and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an affiliate of al-Qaida, since 2018.

Washington is worried that without western-led counterinsurgency action, particularly in intelligence, Islamists in the Sahel might broaden their area of influence.

Following a conference in mid-March in Niamey, when top US officials voiced worries about the impending deployment of Russian soldiers and indications that Iran was looking for raw resources in the nation, including uranium, Niger decided to request the withdrawal of US troops.

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