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US aims to keep troops in Niger despite junta decision on ending counterterrorism ties

Niger’s ruling military junta announced Saturday it was cutting ties with US special operations forces, threatening to undermine a key point of US influence as Russia expands its military foothold across Central Africa.
A French soldier of the operation Barkhane, an anti-terrorist mission in Sahel, patrols as a tiger helicopter operates a tactical flight on March 12, 2016 in Mali. France's Barkhane counter-terror mission comprises at least 3,500 soldiers deployed across five countries (Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso) with a mandate to combat jihadist insurgencies in the region.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has not yet issued orders for US troops to withdraw from Niger, officials said Monday, as the Biden administration hopes to negotiate with the country’s leaders in a bid to offset Russia’s military inroads in Africa.

A spokesperson for Niger’s ruling military junta announced on Saturday that it was ending its counterterrorism ties with Washington following a tense meeting with senior US officials led by the State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, Molly Phee.

Yet the Biden administration remains in communication with Nigerian officials via the embassy in Niamey to “seek clarification” on the junta’s announcement, US officials said on Monday.

“We want to see our partnership continue if there is a pathway forward,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters.

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