US military resumes high-stakes missions in Niger


The U.S. military has made the decision to resume high-stakes missions in Niger after a brief halt due to a coup that occurred in July.

General James Hecker, the head of U.S. Air Forces for Europe and Africa, announced on Wednesday that counterterrorism missions are once again being conducted, with the use of drones and other aircraft.

These missions are being flown out of air bases in Niger, where approximately 1,100 U.S. forces are currently deployed.

US military resumes high-stakes missions in Niger
Niger has been a vital hub for U.S. and European efforts to battle al Qaeda and Islamic State militants. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Since the coup took place, U.S. military personnel have been confined to their bases in Niger. However, last week the Pentagon revealed that some military assets and personnel had been relocated from the air base near the country’s capital, Niamey, to another base in Agadez, which is about 920 kilometres away.

This move has allowed for negotiations between the U.S. and the junta, ultimately leading to the resumption of intelligence and surveillance missions.

General Hecker emphasised that although not all missions have been fully reestablished, a significant number of them have been reinstated. He stated, “For a while, we weren’t doing any missions on the bases. They pretty much closed down the airfields. Through the diplomatic process, we are now doing – I wouldn’t say 100% of the missions that we were doing before, but we’re doing a large amount of missions that we were doing before.”

It has been confirmed that both manned and unmanned missions are being conducted, and these operations were resumed within the past couple of weeks. The U.S. military’s decision to resume these high-stakes missions in Niger underlines the country’s ongoing commitment to counterterrorism efforts in the region.

US military resumes high-stakes missions in Niger
More than a month after a coup temporarily halted US aerial patrols in Niger, the Pentagon said it has resumed flying drones and manned aircraft out of air bases following negotiations with the West African country’s military rulers. (AFP file photo)

Niger has long been a key location for U.S. military operations in West Africa. Its strategic position allows for effective counterterrorism measures, particularly in the fight against extremist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and ISIS-West Africa.

The resumption of missions in Niger sends a clear message that the U.S. is resolute in its mission to combat terrorism and promote stability in the region.

The distance between the two bases has been noted as significant, which has resulted in some missions not receiving as much data due to the limited overhead time caused by the fuel consumption required for travel.

However, the U.S. has established Niger as its primary regional outpost for counterterrorism operations against Islamic extremist movements. These bases are a critical component of America’s overall efforts to combat terrorism in West Africa.

The U.S. has also invested significant resources in training Nigerien forces. Unfortunately, in 2018, four American service members, four Nigeriens, and an interpreter were killed in an ambush by fighters loyal to the Islamic State group.

The region has experienced a high number of extremist attacks, resulting in the loss of nearly 4,600 lives in the first six months of this year alone, according to ECOWAS.

Boko Haram operates in neighbouring Nigeria and Chad, while the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin pose significant threats along Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.

Abubakar Momoh
Abubakar Momoh is a distinguished West African correspondent for Who Owns Africa and an alumnus of the esteemed University of California. With exceptional skills and deep understanding of the socio-political landscape of the West Africa region, Abubakar consistently delivers thought-provoking and insightful reports. His commitment to journalism and his relentless pursuit of truth have earned him a well-deserved reputation as a trusted and influential voice in the field.


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