No U.S. military forces in Niger will leave the country or assist the State Department’s near-total embassy evacuation, the Pentagon confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday.
The Department of Defense (DOD) paused all security cooperation activities with Niger’s military after elements of the country’s military claimed to have overthrown the democratically-elected President Mohamen Bazoum, Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Tuesday. He added the Pentagon was not aware of any plans to evacuate at the time, but on Wednesday, the State Department ordered all but the most essential embassy personnel to return stateside.
“There are no changes to the U.S. military force posture in Niger during the Department of State-led ordered departure. The Department of State has not requested DoD personnel or equipment as part of the ordered departure,” Ryder told the DCNF on Thursday.
He emphasized the Pentagon’s “focus on a diplomatic solution.”
The Biden administration has so far avoided calling the developments in Niger a “coup,” instead stepping up pressure for security forces to restore Bazoum to power, according to Politico. Doing so could trigger an end to American security assistance programs in Niger that serve as a bulwark against terrorism and Russian influence in the region.
On Tuesday, Ryder said the Pentagon saw no “imminent threat” against any American citizen or embassy staff in Niger.
“As far as security cooperation, those efforts right now are suspended in light of the situation but certainly we maintain close contact with our Niger military counterparts in the country as the situation continues to unfold,” he said.
Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chairman, spoke with his counterpart in Niger on July 27, Reuters reported.
While the military remains in contact, activities such as training have ceased and U.S. military personnel are, for the most part, remaining on base.
“Our forces are doing due diligence when it comes to force protection and remaining on those bases, although when necessary, environment permitting, they are still engaging and going off-base to engage with our Nigerian counterparts as necessary,” Ryder said Tuesday.
Niger’s military blocked all flights out of a drone base the Pentagon build in 2019 for $100 million, Politico reported, citing a U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity. The base hosts MQ-9 Reaper drones, used for surveillance and targeting of terrorists across West and North Africa, which costs roughly $3o million each year to maintain.
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