WASHINGTON (Agencies): US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, has confirmed the presence of Russian forces at a base in Niger, which is also being used by American troops. This development comes in the wake of Niger’s military government’s demand for the withdrawal of approximately 1,000 US troops from the Sahel nation, following the termination of a decade-old defense agreement.

Austin’s statement was made in response to reports that Russian soldiers had entered an airbase near Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger’s capital, where US troops were stationed. Although the Russian forces are using a separate hangar at Airbase 101, a senior US defense official has expressed concerns about the situation, stating it is “not great” and only manageable in the short term.

Last month, Nigerien media reported the arrival of Russian military instructors in Niamey, equipped to train the national army in counterterrorism tactics. Niger, a landlocked country, has sought Moscow’s assistance for its security needs. The country’s transitional leader, Abdourahamane Tiani, had discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March regarding anti-terrorism cooperation in the Sahel region.

The Pentagon announced last week its decision to withdraw all troops from Niger, while exploring other options to continue counterterrorism operations in the region. This decision was made despite previous assertions that disengagement was not an option, even after the departure of French troops last year.

Austin reassured that there is “no significant issue” with the protection of American troops in Niger, despite the presence of Russian military. He clarified that “the Russians are in a separate compound and don’t have access to US forces or access to our equipment.”

In response to the reports about the Russian military sharing a base with the US army in Niger, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Moscow will continue to strengthen ties with African countries in various sectors, including defense. He emphasized mutual interest in this development, stating, “They are interested in this, and we are also interested. We will continue to develop our relations with African states.”

By Media

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