The United States will withdraw hundreds of troops from Niger in West Africa, ending its military presence there months after the military junta running the country post-coup called for American forces to leave “with immediate effect.” 

The decision, multiple outlets reported, comes after Niger’s prime minister and the U.S. reached an agreement to pull troops out of the country. A delegation will go to Niger to determine a time table for the move. That will arrive next week, according to Agence France-Presse, citing local television reports.

In March, Niger’s military council called for the United States to leave immediately. Niger has been a focal point in U.S. counter-terrorism strategies in Western Africa and the Sahel. The country is home to two air bases, Air Base 101 in Niamey, and Air Base 201, also called the Agadez base due to the nearby city, that are used for maintaining and launching drones throughout the region. Those are used to hunt down affiliates of ISIS and al-Qaeda in Western Africa.

In July 2023, military officers ousted the democratically elected president. The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland took over. Although it only called for U.S. forces to leave in March, the ruling council had been against the presence of foreign troops from France and other western European powers. After the March announcement, U.S. officials said they were trying to work out a new agreement with Niger. The council has been moving closer to Russia; Russian military instructors arrived in Niger this month to train its troops, a role previously done by American trainers. 

According to reports in outlets such as Agence France-Presse, the BBC and others, the U.S. will remove more than 1,000 service members from Niger. That’s up from the 648 troops that were reported to be there in December in a White House letter to Congress. When the military coup happened, the United States had more than 1,000 troops.

A defense official confirmed to Task & Purpose that the U.S. was entering discussions for “the orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.”

“The DoD is providing a small delegation from the Pentagon and U.S. Africa Command to participate in the discussions,” the official said. “In terms of departure timing, we do not want to speculate and get ahead of the planning discussions.”

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It’s not clear what this means for current operations at the Agadez base near the Sahara Desert, or if the U.S. will shift those assets elsewhere. The U.S. has spent $100 million building out the air base in Agadez, which was constructed six years ago.

After last year’s coup, France, itself a partner with the U.S. in counter-terrorism operations throughout the Sahel, pulled its troops out of Niger after reaching an agreement with the military. 

Update: 4/20/2024: This story has been updated with comment from a defense official.

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