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New crisis unfolds in Africa three years after Biden's Afghanistan debacle

Most of the troops are stationed at a U.S. airbase that is less than a decade old and is valued at $110 million and costs about $1 million a month to run.

Published: April 21, 2024 10:51pm

Nearly three years after the heavily criticized U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is facing another security crisis involving U.S. troops, only this time, it is unfolding in Africa under the growing influence of Russia, Iran and China.

The Biden administration on Friday announced it would withdraw more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel from Niger over the coming months in a move that is expected to disrupt regional counterterrorism operations. The decision came the same week that Russian paramilitary officials arrived in the country and a whistleblower report was released detailing the dire conditions facing the U.S. troops.

Niger said last month that it would no longer participate in a military cooperation deal with the United States after a junta in the country last year left U.S. service members largely inactive, according to The New York Times

The U.S. and Niger have begun discussions regarding "the orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country," an American defense official told Fox News Digital over the weekend. 

Many of the American service members in Niger are stationed at U.S. Air Base 201, which is less than a decade old and is valued at $110 million. Since the junta, which saw the ousting of Niger's democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum, troops there have mostly focused on flying surveillance drones on missions to protect the base. 

Terrorism poses a serious problem for Niger. In 2022, the most recent year for which the U.S. State Department has published a terrorism report for Niger, the country saw at least 180 terrorist attacks. Multiple terrorist groups are active in Niger, including Boko Haram, at least two Islamic State affiliates and one al-Qaida affiliate. 

The administration's announcement Friday about the withdrawal came two days after Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz announced on the House floor that his office composed an interim whistleblower report about what he called a "cover-up" that "exists to conceal the humiliating failures of the Biden administration in Niger, throughout Africa and throughout the world." 

He said that the Biden administration left 1,100 U.S. troops "functionally stranded" in Niger, where they have been "pleading for help," as they have been unable to receive potable water, medical care and other basic supplies. However, the U.S. Embassy in Niger has been blocking reports about the dire conditions, Gaetz also said. 

Despite this reported lack of basic supplies and military activities at the base, operations there still cost U.S. taxpayers $1 million a month, per the Gaetz report. 

The 100 Russian officials who arrived in Niger last week were part of the Africa Corps, a paramilitary group intended to replace the mercenary organization known as the Wagner Group, according to Russia’s state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti.

Meanwhile, Niger also appears to be cozying up to Iran. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Niger is reportedly exploring a secret deal that would allow Iran to access its uranium reserves to help the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. 

China also appears to be strengthening ties with Niger. Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Niger announced that the two countries signed a "series of oil cooperation agreements."

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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