Geopolitical Insights

Academy SITREP – U.S. Orders Partial Evacuation of Embassy in Niger

August 4, 2023
What has Happened:
  • Last week, Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted from power in a coup by the military led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani.
  • As a result, the U.S. and France threatened to cut ties with Niger (halting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid), France sent home its citizens from the country, and the U.S. began an evacuation of non-emergency government personnel.
  • The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the coup leaders to restore the ousted president to office or face consequences including possible military action.
  • In response to this, neighboring Sahel region countries Mali and Burkina Faso declared that they would consider any foreign action against Niger a “declaration of war.”
  • With recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Chad, and Guinea, the U.S. and its counterterrorism allies have focused on Niger for support (1,100 American troops and 1,500 French troops are based there) and the U.S. operates a drone base in Niger as well.
  • In addition to Islamist militants in the region benefiting from the crisis, the concern is that Russia will use this to further reinforce its foothold in Africa.
  • Of note, General Salifou Mody, one of the officers who led the coup, visited Mali on Wednesday where the Wagner Group has hundreds of contractors stationed.
Why it Matters:

“After a significant decline in the number of African coups over the past decade, there have now been six in the last year and a half (Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, Chad, Mali, and now Niger). However, the combination of Niger's electricity dependence on Nigeria (over 70%), the AU/EU willingness to step up sanctions, and the threat of military intervention by ECOWAS if President Bazoum is not allowed to remain in power may make it easier to broker a deal in this case. Nigeria has already unplugged the “electrical cable” into Niger and sanctions already appear to be pinching the coup leaders. The hard part of this is that there is some legitimacy to the complaint by the people regarding failed security and protection from radical Islamic groups like IS, AQ, and Boko Haram. Niger has historically been a friend of Western and EU support. It would appear that this coup is due to the significant increase in violence in Niger, failure of the military and police to contain the radical Islamic movement, and a perception that the newly elected president is not taking the steps necessary to resolve the threats. Then there is the added concern by the EU/U.S. of Russian/Wagner Group influence if we do not move quickly. All of these things mentioned above may be enough to spur an aggressive approach to finding a solution short of armed conflict. Let’s hope so.” General Mastin Robeson

  “Niger presents another strategic challenge for the U.S. and the West. Some do not want to acknowledge that the alliance between China and Russia is presenting a new Cold War between democracy and autocracy across the globe. It is playing out now in Niger following coups in Burkina Faso and Mali. The West, led mainly by France, has lost influence in all three countries and the void is being filled by Russia and China. Russia’s influence is already seen on the streets of Niamey with Russian flags waving. Russia’s Wagner Group and Yevgeny Prigozhin have already offered forces to support the junta. They similarly backfilled the French military in Burkina Faso and Mali when the French military was kicked out. We already see how Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative has influence throughout Africa. Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been on a crusade throughout Africa to paint the Western nations as former colonial powers that wish to control African countries. Russia’s and China’s strategic objective is to use Africa as another front to challenge the U.S. and the West’s rules-based order.” General Robert Walsh