Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Paris, France – France has announced the commencement of its troop withdrawal from Niger, signaling an operation set to begin “this week.” This decision comes following a rift between Paris and the military junta that has held power since a coup in July.

In an official statement, the military headquarters declared, “We will begin our disengagement operation this week, in good order, safely, and in coordination with the Nigeriens.”

The announcement comes just a week after France’s ambassador to Niamey was recalled amid mounting pressure from the Nigerien regime.

French President Emmanuel Macron had previously disclosed, on September 24, plans for the withdrawal of 1,400 French troops “by the end of the year.”

The French troops had been stationed in Niger as part of a broader counterterrorism effort against jihadist groups operating across the Sahel region. Approximately 400 French soldiers were deployed alongside local forces in northwestern Niger, near the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali. This region, known as the “three borders” zone, has been a stronghold for the Islamic State group.

The military headquarters emphasized that soldiers withdrawing from the area would require adequate cover, especially given their exposed forward positions. This may entail air support from the larger French force stationed at an airbase outside the capital, Niamey.

The troops have faced uncertainty since the Nigerien junta demanded their departure. Their living conditions were compromised, with irregular food supplies, and they were subjected to frequent anti-French demonstrations outside their Niamey base.

France had augmented its presence in Niger after another military regime, born out of a coup in Mali, also demanded the withdrawal of French forces. Paris responded by reinforcing its troops, adding armored vehicles and helicopters to the already deployed drones and fighter jets.

The withdrawal will necessitate a departure route, which could involve moving through Benin to the south or Chad to the east, where France maintains its headquarters for the Sahel theater. However, the junta in Niamey has currently restricted French flights over its territory. The evolving situation underscores the diplomatic complexities associated with the withdrawal process.

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