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Top U.S. Generals Visits Africa Amid West Africa Military Realignment

Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Jr
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GABORONE– Air Force General C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is making a rare visit to Africa to explore ways to maintain U.S. military presence in West Africa following Niger’s decision to expel U.S. forces in favor of partnering with Russia, a significant setback for Washington.

During his visit to Botswana on Monday for a meeting of African defense chiefs, General Brown emphasized the potential for new collaborations in the region. “I do see some opportunities. And there’s countries that we’re already working with in West Africa,” Brown told reporters accompanying him. He suggested that existing partnerships might “provide opportunities for us to posture some of the capability we had in Niger in some other locations.”

While Brown did not specify which countries are being considered, a U.S. official disclosed that the Biden administration has initiated discussions with Benin, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. However, replicating the extensive counter-terrorism operations previously conducted in Niger remains unlikely in the near future. The loss of Air Base 201 near Agadez, built at a cost of over $100 million, is particularly significant. Until Niger’s military coup last year, the base was crucial in the joint U.S.-Niger fight against insurgents.

A second U.S. official, speaking anonymously, noted that the U.S. does not anticipate announcing any major new military bases or large-scale troop relocations from Niger. “We do not expect a large military construction announcement or a significant new base to appear anywhere,” the official said.

Political Upheaval and Strategic Reassessment

The political turmoil in West and Central Africa, marked by eight coups over the past four years—including in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali—poses a strategic challenge for the United States. Many of the new military juntas are less inclined to cooperate with Western nations, instead turning to Russia, which does not face the same legal restrictions on supporting coup-installed governments.

“The U.S. had solid partners in the region,” said Catherine Nzuki of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And now that the U.S. has been pushed out of Niger, the political question is: Are we losing allies in the region? Are things changing too rapidly for us to keep up?”

U.S. officials are currently reassessing their goals in light of these rapid changes. “We are doing some introspection right now and thinking about what our modified goals should be,” said the second U.S. official. The ability of these modified goals to address the expanding threat from Islamist groups in the Sahel remains uncertain. “The terrorist threat is alarming,” the official added.

The U.S. withdrawal from Niger is proceeding on schedule ahead of the September 15 deadline, with approximately 600 troops still stationed at Air Base 101 near Niamey. Concurrently, Russia has deployed military forces to the same base for training activities, though U.S. officials report no contact between U.S. and Russian troops.

Despite the withdrawal, General Brown expressed hope for future security cooperation with Niger, acknowledging the extensive investment in military ties. “We have an embassy there, so we still have relationships. And so I don’t know if the door is completely closed,” Brown said. “If the opportunity presents itself to rebuild and strengthen the relationship, we’ll work with the rest of the U.S. government to figure out how best to do that.”

Source: Reuters