US troops to leave Niger bases this weekend and in August

U.S. forces will leave one of its two bases in Niger this weekend, withdrawing from the air base in the capital city of Niamey as part of an agreement with the ruling Nigerien military government, according to an American general.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Ekman of U.S. Africa Command confirmed the plans on Friday, July 5, telling reporters via video conferencing that the American forces remaining at Air Base 101, located next to Niamey’s Diori Hamani International Airport, are leaving this weekend. The last Americans are expected to be gone by Sunday, July 7, and there will be a formal handover that day.

“We will do a joint ceremony on that occasion that marks the departure of the last U.S. C-17,” Ekman said. “The government of Niger will assume control of former U.S. areas and facilities.”

Niger’s military government, which took power in a coup last year, demanded in April that U.S. troops leave the country. Niger had been a major partner in U.S. counterterrorism missions in Africa and the Sahel specifically, with the two air bases, Air Base 101, and the more remote Air Base 201 near Agadez, serving as locations to maintain and launch drones from. 

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In May, the two countries agreed to a withdrawal plan. The agreement came after military-to-military talks in Niamey, with the U.S. military securing protections and measures to keep Americans safe during the course of the exit. Wider U.S.-Niger relations were not discussed; the U.S. embassy in Niamey is remaining open. France, another nation that carried out counterterrorism missions in the country, left at the end of 2023 in the wake of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (AKA the CNSP) seizing power in the coup. 

Meanwhile, AFRICOM intends to withdraw from the other major American outpost, Air Base 201 in August, Ekman said. That would be ahead of the Sept. 15 deadline, which AFRICOM previously said it intended to be done well ahead of. That base, a $100 million project, had been key for drone operations.

Less than 1,000 troops remained in Niger by the time of the May agreement, military and defense officials said at the time. According to Ekman’s update, more are leaving this weekend, mainly for Europe. Some, including special operations forces, have gone to other countries in Africa. With the exit from Air Base 101, approximately 500 American soldiers and airmen will remain at Air Base 201 working on leaving that site. 

Military and defense officials previously told reporters in May that as part of the withdrawal process, equipment and weapons would be removed from the country. Larger, immobile infrastructure such as hangers or facilities will remain intact, although stripped of movable parts, and handed over to Niger. 

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Nicholas Slayton

Contributing Editor

Nicholas Slayton is a Contributing Editor for Task & Purpose. In addition to covering breaking news, he writes about history, shipwrecks, and the military’s hunt for unidentified anomalous phenomenon (formerly known as UFOs). He currently runs the Task & Purpose West Coast Bureau from Los Angeles.

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