US to complete withdrawal from Niger by Sept 15

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - NIAMEY (Niger), May 19 — Niger and the United States have reached an agreement on the withdrawal of American troops from the West African country, a process that has already begun and will be finished by September 15, they said in a joint statement.

Niger’s ruling junta last month told the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country. Until a coup last year Niger had been a key partner in Washington’s fight against insurgents in the Sahel region of Africa, who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

The agreement between Niger’s defence ministry and the US Department of Defence, reached after a five-day commission, guarantees the protection of US troops until their withdrawal and establishes procedures to ease the entry and exit of American personnel during the withdrawal process.

“The Ministry of Defence of Niger and the US Department of Defense recall the common sacrifices of the Nigerien and American forces in the fight against terrorism and welcome the mutual efforts made in building up the Nigerien armed forces,” they said in a joint statement.

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“The withdrawal of American forces from Niger in no way affects the pursuit of relations between the United States and Niger in the area of development. Also, Niger and the United States are committed to an ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations.”

Niger’s decision to ask for the removal of US troops came after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials raised concerns about issues such as the expected arrival of Russian forces and reports of Iran seeking raw materials in the country, including uranium.

Russian military personnel have since entered an air base in Niger that is hosting US troops. — Reuters

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