US Military Seeks Alternative To Other West African Countries After Niger Ousting

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The U.S. top general is making a rare trip to Africa to discuss ways to preserve some of the U.S. presence in West Africa after Niger decided to kick out the U.S. military in favour of partnering with Russia in a major setback for Washington.

Air Force General C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters before landing in Botswana on Monday for a gathering of African chiefs of defense that he was going to speak with several partners in the region.

“I do see some opportunities. And there are countries that we are already working with in West Africa,” Brown told reporters travelling with him.

He added that building on those relationships may “provide opportunities for us to posture some of the capability we had in Niger in some other locations.”

Brown, however, declined to comment on which countries were under consideration. But a U.S. official told Reuters that President Joe Biden’s administration has had initial conversations with countries including Benin, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The U.S. military is not expected to be able to replicate its muscular counter-terrorism footprint in Niger anytime soon. In particular, its ejection means losing Air Base 201, which the U.S. built near Agadez in central Niger at a cost of more than $100 million.

Until Niger’s military coup last year, the base had been key to the U.S. and Niger’s shared fight against insurgents who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

A second U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said not to expect another big U.S. base or wholesale relocation of U.S. troops from Niger to somewhere else.

“We do not expect a large military construction announcement or a significant new base to appear anywhere,” the second official said.