09.04.2024 Author: Viktor Goncharov

Niger – USA: Another slap in the face for the arrogant hegemon. Part two: USA has nothing left

Nigerien soldiers

As Business Day, a Nigerian newspaper based in Lagos, the Nigerian capital, notes, US attempts to pressure Niger’s military leadership to “distance itself from Russia”, combined with an arrogant attitude towards long-standing partners, have ultimately had a counterproductive effect, leading to a serious strain in relations with one of its key allies in the region and an equally serious blow to the hegemon’s prestige.

As far as the importance of Niger for the US is concerned, the former commander of US Special Operations Forces in Africa from 2017 to 2019, General Marcus Hicks, understands that “Niger was our last bastion of hope and security in the Sahel”, so “the very thought of leaving a vacuum for pernicious Russian influence would be a real tragedy”.

The Indian news agency ANI News argues that while the Niger decision is a sensitive blow to US prestige, Washington’s need to maintain its military presence is also dictated by the fact that the Agadez airbase, its most important military facility in the Sahel, is used not only to fight jihadism but also to demonstrate its military might to rivals on the black continent such as Russia and China.

It is therefore not surprising that, according to a State Department spokesman, the United States, through its embassy in Niger, continues to hold talks with the local authorities on maintaining its military presence in the country. For its part, the government of Niger seems to have left the Americans a kind of “loophole” to continue contacts.

The fact is that Niger’s leaders, having described the US military presence as illegitimate, have not made any officially documented statements on the withdrawal of the troops. Therefore, as the Washington Post notes, Washington believed that the decision was driven less by a desire to end military cooperation with the US than by dissatisfaction with recent statements by US administration officials about the direction they should take and with whom they should partner.

However, given Niger’s difficult economic situation and its dependence on American aid, Washington can be expected to delay the lifting of economic sanctions in any way it can during the negotiation process in order to obtain maximum preferences from Niger to maintain its presence.

In addition, since the coup of 26 July, the US has stopped sharing intelligence on terrorist activities with the Nigerian authorities in order, as the US publication The Conversation notes, to put pressure on the military junta and eventually force it to relinquish power.

In order to put pressure on Niamey and make it more compliant, the Americans have widely disseminated information that they are negotiating the establishment of alternative bases in other West African countries.

General Charles Brown, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on 19 March that the US was considering other options for deploying its troops in West African countries. According to The Conversation, these include Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.

For Washington’s failure in Niger, official Yankee propaganda once again unapologetically blamed Russia. AFRICOM commander General Michael Langley claims that Moscow’s aim in signing a military cooperation agreement with Niger in January this year was to “bring the entire Sahel under its control”.

However, the US general failed to mention that Niger’s military ties with Russia began in 2017, when it signed an agreement with the government of President Mahamadou Issoufou, who has actively cooperated with the US, to supply Niger with defence products and share counter-terrorism expertise.

As for the question of who is to blame for the failure of American policy in Niger, we can recommend those interested to analyse an article by the American publication The Intercept with the very interesting title – US-trained Niger junta kicks out US troops, drone base – which in Russian sounds something like this – US-trained Niger junta kicks out US troops from the US drone base.

According to this publication, at least five military leaders of the July 2023 coup in Niger received military training in the United States. Once in power, they also appointed five members of the Nigerian security forces, also trained in the US, as provincial governors.

One of the reasons for the Nigerian military’s takeover was the lack of effectiveness of the US and Western counter-terrorism strategy in the Sahel. While the number of US troops in Niger has increased ninefold over the past decade, the terrorist threat has increased many times over.

While in 2002, according to the US State Department, there were 23 terrorist casualties in the Sahel, by 2023, according to the US Department of Defence’s African Centre for Strategic Studies, the number of terrorists in the Sahel is estimated at 11,643.

According to experts at the London School of Economics, the focus of US and French Africa policy on purely military methods to combat terrorism has not produced the expected results. Moreover, the activity of terrorist organisations has increased dramatically in the last 3-4 years, especially in the western Sahel. While in the past their activity was explained more by local factors linked to ethnic and tribal conflicts, the struggle for control over natural resources and land, and for political influence in the country, more recently Washington’s support for African authoritarian regimes that follow its policies has led to the growth of anti-American sentiment, militant Islamism and the expansion of this struggle into a war against Western civilisation, which they consider alien, the London experts conclude.

Another reason for the growth of anti-American sentiments, according to the experts of the American publication Responsible Statecraft, is that the successive AFRICOM commanders, in their statements on the situation in Africa, do not cease to present it as a region where only the United States and its loyal African allies can face the threats posed by numerous terrorist organisations and the “expansionist policies of Russia and China”, thus deliberately placing the latter in a position of dependence on Washington and counteracting its intentions regarding the situation in Africa.

Moreover, the US sees the main threat to its interests in the rapid spread of China’s “economic tsunami” across the continent, with all the political consequences that entails. “Africa is a showcase for Chinese success,” writes a correspondent for the British Guardian. – Where the Americans have come with their drones, the Chinese are building roads, bridges and dams… In Africa, Washington is more obsessed with China and Iran than with jihadism,” the journalist concludes.

According to Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, “the main challenge for the US in Africa today is to find the right balance between building bases for drones to fight terrorism and strengthening business cooperation with African countries to promote mutually beneficial economic and social development. The US should move away from the militaristic focus of its Africa policy towards trade, finance and cultural cooperation. Africa policy should be as diverse as the African landscape,” says the American economist.


Viktor GONCHAROV, african expert, candidate of sciences in economics, especially for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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