France’s soldiers leave Niger and Washington reveals its official classification of the situation in Niamey

The first batch of French soldiers deployed in Niger began leaving the country for Chad in a land convoy guarded by a local force as part of a withdrawal imposed by the ruling military group after it ousted President Mohamed Bazoum at the end of last July, while Washington officially considered Tuesday that the acquisition of power by the country’s military was a “coup d ‘état.”

The leaders of the coup d ‘état scrambled to issue a resolution asking French forces to withdraw after overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum and after a lengthy rejection, French President Emmanuel Macron announced at the end of September that his forces would withdraw from Niger.

Some 1400 French soldiers and pilots have so far been deployed in Niger to fight against extremist groups along with Nigerians, including about a thousand in Niamey and 400 in two advanced bases in the west of the country in Walam and Tabari-Bari, in the heart of the so-called “three borders” with Mali and Burkina Faso.

Tuesday, French soldiers evacuated their base in western Niger and left in a first ground convoy under local guard, heading “to Chad”, the ruling military group said.

The group said in a statement read on State television that “troops stationed in Walam left their base today,” noting that they were “the first land convoy to leave for Chad under the guard of our defence and security forces.”

In addition to the departure of the road convoy, “3 special flights” were registered at Niamey airport, two for the departure of “97 special forces” and one for logistics services.

The military group, which had confirmed its desire to withdraw “safely”, explained that the disengagement would continue in accordance with the “mutually agreed timetable”.

Earlier, the French Ministry of Armies told AFP that “the first departure is taking place as planned and in constant coordination”, confirming the announcement made by the Nigerian military regime Monday, in which it was stated that the convoys would leave under the protection of its soldiers without specifying their destination.

On the other hand, according to another military source, a plane carrying French equipment and a first group of priority soldiers also took off from Niamey on the same day.

The military regime announced on Friday that the withdrawal of French soldiers would be “safe.”

In parallel, the United States officially considered Tuesday that the military’s seizure of power in Niger was a coup d ‘état, and announced more than $500 million in aid.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said “any resumption of US aid would require a move by the National Council for National Protection to establish democratic governance within a fast and credible time frame”, referring to the coup leaders.

A senior US official told reporters: “We are taking this action, because over the past two months we have exhausted all available means to maintain constitutional order in Niger.”

Dangerous Path

After France’s exit from Mali and then Burkina Faso in the summer of 2022, Niger became the main partner for French operations against extremists in an area where ISIL and Al-Qaida armed groups were deployed.

The withdrawal from Niger represents a logistical and security challenge for the French.

Options for routes are limited and dangerous, with possible anti-French demonstrations and extremists associated with Boko Haram and ISIS in West Africa (ISWAP) in the Diva region (eastern Chad).

Niger’s land borders with Benin and Nigeria have also been closed since the 26 July coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, an ally of France.

Nigerians are prohibited from flying French civilian and military aircraft over their territory unless otherwise permitted.

However, the borders with 5 countries, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, have reopened.

If French containers were transported to Chad, the journey would be long, difficult and dangerous and would then have to cross through the port of Douala, Cameroon, on a second complex journey according to an informed source.

After a partnership with the Niger to fight against extremist groups, France secretly strengthened its military presence in Niamey with armours and helicopters deployed to promote the five Ripper marches, as well as 3 “Mirage” fighters already in existence.

This area is located within Nigeria’s 101st base in the capital and comprises hundreds of prefabricated facilities where computer equipment, containers and rooms are used as office premises for, inter alia, the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles.

It is a lot of equipment that the French army does not intend to leave to the Niger’s army.

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