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US Confirms Presence of Russian Forces at Same Niger Airbase as American Troops

Russian forces are operating at same base as US troops (Credits: CNN)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has confirmed that Russian security forces have been deployed to the same airbase as American troops in Niamey, Niger. The Russian troops, who have been in Niger for weeks, are stationed at Airbase 101, which is co-located with Diori Hamani international airport in the Nigerien capital. However, it remains unclear when they were deployed and how many troops are on the ground.

Austin emphasized that the Russian forces are in a separate compound and do not have access to US forces or equipment. The development is the latest fallout from a coup in July last year that deposed the democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. The new junta has been reconfiguring its partnerships with Western allies, asking troops from the US and France to leave their bases.

President Biden (Credits:

Russia has been making inroads into the continent, reawakening Cold War-era relations and presenting “regime stabilization” packages to African leaders. The Wagner mercenary group has been the face of Moscow’s presence in the region.

The presence of Russian and US troops in the same Nigerien base highlights the region’s geopolitical tensions, with a pro-western coastal West Africa and a Russophile Sahel. The US military had moved some of its forces from Airbase 101 to Airbase 201 in Agadez after the coup. It is unclear what US military equipment remains at Airbase 101.

Vladimir Putin (Credits: CNBC)

The US-built Airbase 201 has been used to target Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates with drones since 2018. Washington is concerned about jihadists in the Sahel region expanding their influence without Western-led counterinsurgency activity, especially in intelligence.

Niger’s move to ask for the removal of US troops came after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, where senior US officials raised concerns about the expected arrival of Russian forces and reports of Iran seeking raw materials in the country, including uranium. The development has sparked concerns about the region’s geopolitical stability and the potential for a proxy conflict between world powers.

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