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US sending senior officials to Niger to discuss troop exit

US, Niger begin talks on exit of American troops

The United States will send a delegation to Niger on Thursday to begin face-to-face talks with officials in Niamey on withdrawing the more than 1,000 American personnel in the military-ruled country.

Niger has been a key base for regional counter-terrorism operations, but the government — a military junta that ousted the country’s president last year — said in March it was ending a military cooperation agreement with Washington.

The United States said it had agreed to remove its troops last week and would send a delegation to Niamey within days.

As part of ongoing negotiations, U.S. Ambassador to Niger Kathleen FitzGibbon and a senior military officer for U.S. Africa Command, Major General Ken Ekman, will meet with ruling government representatives on April 25 “to initiate discussions on an orderly and responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger,” the State Department said Wednesday.

Other Defense Department officials will conduct follow-up meetings in Niamey next week, and Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will travel there “in the coming months to discuss ongoing collaboration in areas of joint interest,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

He said the United States is proud of the security cooperation and “shared sacrifice” of U.S. and Nigerien forces, and that it contributed to stability in the region.

But since discussions began last year with the ruling National Committee for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP), “we have been unable to reach an understanding with the CNSP to continue that security cooperation in a manner that addresses the needs and concerns of each side,” Miller said.

This week U.S. officials said there have not yet been changes to troop levels in Niger, a linchpin in the U.S. and French strategy to combat jihadists in West Africa and the location of a $100 million American drone base.

US sending senior officials to Niger to discuss troop exit

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