Nigerian Leader Says a US Ultimatum Destroyed Military Relationship / /

Nigeria has proven that America has no place in dictating what a country should be allowed to do.  

Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine squarely blamed the United States for the breakdown of its military relationship with the U.S., accusing American officials of trying to control Niger’s partnerships and not giving good reasons for having U.S. troops there to start with. Niger has been essential in fighting a growing Islamist insurgency in West Africa. 

Following a military coup that removed Niger’s democratically elected president last year, the United States halted security aid as mandated by U.S. law. It suspended counterterrorism operations, including intelligence gathering on militant activities in the region from a large drone base in northern Niger. Despite this, the United States has maintained over 1,000 military personnel in the country while negotiating America’s status with Niger and urging the junta to repair its democracy. 

Since 2012, the United States has maintained a military presence in Niger, primarily centered around the Agadez drone base, which required an investment of approximately $110 million for construction. General Michael E. Langley, overseeing U.S. military operations in Africa, described this base as significantly impacting counterterrorism efforts throughout the region. In an interview earlier this year, Langley cautioned that a reduction in the U.S. presence in Niger would diminish its capability for active monitoring and early warning, including for homeland defense. 

Before the coup on July 26, during which President Bazoum was ousted by Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of his presidential guard, U.S. soldiers were engaged in training, providing intelligence, and supplying equipment to Nigerien forces. The coup saw the junta take power from the elected president, and Zeine was appointed Prime Minister. Following the coup, activities were limited to those necessary for ensuring the safety of American troops. The U.S. demanded the release of President Bazoum, who has been under house arrest since the coup. 

Zeine noted that the leaders of Niger’s new government, referred to as the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP), were puzzled by the United States’ decision to halt military assistance while insisting on retaining troops in the country without providing a clear rationale for their ongoing presence. He noted that the American reaction following Niger’s coup differed significantly from that of other countries like Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, which welcomed the new leadership. 

While previous reports have indicated tense discussions between U.S. and Nigerian officials, Zeine’s comments shed light on the disagreement between the two nations. While the Americans focused on democracy and Niger’s international relations, Zeine stated that Niger sought additional military equipment and a more balanced relationship between the two forces. 

Zeine mentioned facing months of rejection when attempting to meet with officials in Washington. He noted that Salifou Modi, the current vice president of Nigeria, crafted a new agreement regarding the status of U.S. troops, but it was turned down. Despite this setback, Zeine stated that Nigerian officials remained optimistic that the United States might offer increased assistance in addressing the surge in extremist attacks following the coup. 

U.S. African affairs official Molly Phee destroyed those hopes during a March visit to Niamey. Phee urged the government to avoid engagements with Iran and Russia that would be viewed unfavorably by Washington if Niger wished to maintain its security ties with the United States. Zeine recalled that Phee also warned of potential sanctions if Niger pursued a uranium deal with Iran. Zeine dismissed the conversation, stating that Phee’s approach was unacceptable, as she came to Niger to issue threats and dictate its diplomatic relationships with a condescending attitude and an insulting lack of respect. 

U.S. officials quickly downplayed the incident, stating that Phee communicated America’s position “professionally” and that the request was not an ultimatum. The official said Nigeria’s National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland (CNSP) was “presented with a choice” regarding “whether they wanted to “continue their partnership” with the U.S. while respecting democratic values and national security interests. 

It’s a “choice” that clearly sounds like an ultimatum. 

The split between the former allies has opened up a chance for Russia, which has acted swiftly to strengthen its ties with Niger. Last month, Russian troops were sent to the capital, Niamey, to train the Nigerian military and deliver a new air defense system. Russian and U.S. forces are stationed at opposite ends of an air base. 

Still, Zeine insists that Nigeria wants to continue diplomatic relationships and economic trade after the troops are removed, telling Phee that he would rather have Americans investing in his country than patrolling it. 

And so, the Biden administration hands more power to Russia and Iran. When will America learn that it has no place dictating world politics? Just ask Israel.