U.S. Troops Face Uncertainty in Niger as Wagner Seeks to Capitalize on Coup

The U.S. is deciding what to do with its 1,000 troops in Niger amid a report that the top of Russia’s Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has supplied his fighters’ providers to forces that staged a army takeover within the former French colony.

A U.S. army official mentioned that American troops had been restricted to their base within the metropolis of Agadez, NBC Information reported on Monday, after President Mohamed Bazoum was seized by members of the presidential guard.

Insurgent leaders have declared Normal Abdourahamane Tiani as the brand new head of state within the seventh army takeover in West and Central Africa in lower than three years. The U.S. has had troops in Niger for round a decade, largely advising and coaching its forces on counterterrorism.

However Russia’s footprint within the area has been rising because of the Wagner Group, which has contracts in nations such because the Central African Republic and Mali.

A policeman in Niger stands by cadets as supporters rally in help of the nation’s junta in Niamey on July 30, 2023. The U.S. has round 1,000 troops stationed in Niger.

A voice message on Telegram, believed to be Prigozhin talking, described how what had occurred was “the wrestle of the individuals of Niger with their colonisers,” Reuters reported.

“If Wagner have been to enter Niger, it may pose a risk to U.S. operations in a lot the identical manner that Wagner has beforehand undermined French, European, and UN presence in different African nations, corresponding to Mali,” mentioned Catrina Doxsee, affiliate director of the Transnational Threats Undertaking on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research.

West African pivot from France in the direction of Russia

Nevertheless the U.S., in contrast to France and a number of other different European powers, will not be overshadowed by a colonial historical past, and so “U.S. help might stay interesting. “

“U.S. policymakers could be clever to prioritize the U.S.-Nigerien relationship of their response, moderately than forcing an ultimatum between america and Russia as companions,” she instructed Newsweek.

Prigozhin’s obvious provide of assist suits in along with his sample of opportunism in searching for weak or transitioning governments needing safety help. Wagner additionally gives a key hyperlink for the Kremlin to the continent’s profitable pure assets.

“I’d count on Wagner to just accept a proposal from the Nigerien junta if one comes,” Doxsee instructed Newsweek. “Nevertheless, any settlement could also be troublesome to execute totally, given each the heavy uncertainty surrounding Wagner’s future and strains on personnel throughout their present deployments.”

Prigozhin was heard in a video final month telling his males in Belarus that they need to collect their power for a “new journey to Africa.” Two pictures purportedly of the Wagner chief appeared on Telegram displaying him assembly attendees ultimately week’s Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg.

There are not any indications Wagner performed any function within the takeover in Niger however a U.S. official instructed CNN Washington that it was anticipated Prigozhin, who led a failed mutiny in opposition to Russia’s army institution in June, would attempt to make the most of it.

Niger gained independence in 1960 however amid a pivot away from France and in the direction of Russia in West Africa, the takeover has prompted demonstrations in opposition to the previous colonial energy.

The BBC reported that protesters outdoors the French embassy within the capital Niamey chanted “Lengthy reside Russia,” “Lengthy reside Putin” and “Down with France.”

The Biden administration has not but determined if the takeover formally constitutes a coup, which might require reducing overseas and army help to the federal government in Niamey. A senior State Division official instructed CNN work was beneath solution to reinstate Bazoum.

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. State Division for remark.