Niger's Coup Puts France's Influence at Risk: Discussions Begin for Withdrawal of Troops

Nigers Coup Puts Frances Influence at Risk: Discussions Begin for Withdrawal of Troops

France has initiated discussions with Niger army officials regarding the withdrawal of some troops from Niger, according to reports from French news media. The talks are not being held with the leaders of the July 26 coup, but with regular army officials that France has had longstanding cooperation with. The number of French soldiers involved in the withdrawal and the timing of their departure have yet to be determined. France currently has around 1,500 troops stationed in Niger as part of its fight against jihadists in the Sahel. These troops are primarily based at an airfield near Niamey, which has recently been the target of protests by thousands of demonstrators calling for the French troops to leave. Speculation has arisen that France may be forced to conduct a full military pullout from Niger following the coup.

The coup has strained the relationship between Niger and France, as Paris has stood by the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and declared the post-coup regime as illegitimate. French influence in the region has been weakened by the coup, following previous military takeovers in Mali in 2020 and Burkina Faso in 2022. The coup leaders in Niger have renounced several military cooperation agreements with France, and have also expelled the French ambassador Sylvain Itte. The coup has had implications for the ongoing fight against jihadists in the Sahel, as anti-terrorist cooperation between France and Niger has been suspended. This has immobilized French forces in the country, and talks are now underway to ease the movements of French military resources in Niger.

The withdrawal of certain military elements is being discussed, but specific details have not been provided. Despite the strained relations, Niger's military-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, has expressed hope for maintaining cooperation with France if possible. He acknowledged the country's shared history with France and the need for ongoing collaboration. The potential withdrawal of French forces from Niger may also result in their redeployment to neighboring Chad or back to France, as the country's military presence in the region adapts to the changing circumstances.

The coup in Niger and the resulting discussions about the withdrawal of French troops have presented a new challenge to France's influence in the region. The events in Niger follow the military takeovers in Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years, further highlighting the fragile political situation in the Sahel. In late August, Gabon also experienced a coup that overthrew President Ali Bongo Ondimba, further testing France's influence in the region. However, while France has reacted more cautiously to the fall of the pro-French dynasty in Gabon, it has expressed more concern and taken a harder stance toward the situation in Niger.

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