May 29, 2024

More U.S. Troops ordered to leave African bases

3 min read

by GIN

Another group of American military personnel has been ordered to pack up and withdraw from an African base in the Central African nation of Chad, three senior U.S. officials said this week. This comes amid a broader, involuntary reconfiguration of Washington’s security policy in a volatile part of Africa.

The officials said the repositioning could be temporary because the U.S. intends to negotiate with Chad about their security relationship, including potentially returning the troops who departed.

It is the second time in a week the Biden administration has acknowledged that it will comply with a host nation directive to remove deployed forces from an African country deemed integral to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the region. Earlier, officials said the United States had agreed to pull more than 1,000 military personnel out of neighboring Niger.

The discussion of the U.S. military presence in Chad a vast landlocked nation in Central Africa is particularly sensitive given the rejection of the Western military partnerships in  Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

The Special Forces troop departure, first reported by the New York Times, follows an apparent disagreement between U.S. officials and a Chadian general, who claimed that Washington failed to produce documents justifying its military presence in Chad’s capital of N’Djamena and asked the Americans to “immediately stop” their activity at the base.

Chad’s leader, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, who has ruled since 2021, has not called for removal of French soldiers based in Chad, but has built ties with leaders in central African states and with Russia.

Earlier this year, Déby went to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, who said the two countries had “great opportunities to develop our bilateral ties.”

That meeting marked a shift from just last year, when U.S. intelligence officials warned that Russian mercenaries were working with rebels to overthrow Chad’s government, which then was seen as too pro-Western. 

The three former French colonies of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali face growing threats from Islamist extremist organizations, are ruled by military juntas, and are increasingly looking to Russia for military assistance. In recent years, each has demanded that French military forces, which historically had been their lead international counterterrorism partner, leave their countries. 

The United States has not had a security relationship with Mali or Burkina Faso since their coups, but had maintained its presence in Niger, which includes a newly constructed drone base that cost $110 million to build. While U.S. security assistance paused after Niger’s military seized power last summer, negotiations continued, with the United States seeking to compel Niger to agree to reject a relationship with Russia. After a tense meeting last month, the junta canceled the status-of-forces agreement and declared the U.S. military presence “illegal.”

The junta’s spokesperson said the U.S. delegation had tried to dictate that the West African nation not have relationships with certain other countries, including Iran and Russia.

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