US Evacuates Niger Embassy Personnel

( – The State Department is partly evacuating the US Embassy in Niger after the African nation was hit by a military coup in late July. The embassy will stay open for now to help US citizens trapped in the country. The situation in Niger is causing a major headache for the Biden administration, which has been sending military aid.

Since Niger’s military dictator wrote a new constitution and held democratic elections in 2011, the West African country has become a key US ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism. There are around 1,100 US military personnel there, training Nigerian forces and operating drones. However, on July 26, the Nigerian military overthrew the elected government the US has been working with, and General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the former commander of the Presidential Guard, declared himself as the country’s new ruler.

This puts the Biden administration in an awkward spot. It doesn’t want to lose its cooperation with the Nigerian military — or the $100 million airbase the US built in the country. However, if it admits that the arrest of the country’s president and his replacement by a military junta is a coup, the US will have to stop sending military aid. So far, the State Department is describing the situation as an “attempt” to remove the president, who is being held captive by his former bodyguards.

Meanwhile, General Salifou Modi, one of the coup leaders, has visited neighboring Mali. That’s a worry because the Russian Wagner Group has around 1,500 troops in Mali, and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has already offered to send his notorious mercenaries to Niger to support the junta.   

In the meantime, the State Department has ordered “non-emergency” embassy personnel and their families to leave the country. For now, the embassy will stay open to support US citizens in Niger.

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