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Niger's junta breaks military pact with US, calls American presence 'illegal'

Protesters cheer Nigerien troops as they gather in front of the French Embassy in Niamey during a demonstration that followed a rally in support of Niger’s military officers seizing power on July 26, 2023. (File photo by AFP)

Niger's junta has broken its military pact with the United States, calling American presence in the country "illegal".

The ruling Nigerien government announced on Saturday it canceled a 2012 military cooperation agreement with the US.

“The government of Niger, considering the aspirations and interests of its people, responsibly decides to denounce with immediate effect the agreement” that permitted US military personnel and civilian employees from the American Department of Defense on Niger’s territory, the government spokesman Amadou Abdramane said in a statement aired on national television.

The cancellation of the military pact between the two countries follows a visit to Niamey earlier this week by a delegation of senior US military officials led by the Under Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Nigerien government's ruling junta's spokesman said despite the meeting between Niger’s ruling military junta, Molly Phee, and the head of the US Africa Command, the US officials had not followed diplomatic protocol and had not informed Niamey about the composition of the delegation.

The government spokesman added that Niger regretted the “intention of the American delegation to deny the sovereign Nigerien people the right of choosing their partners and partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism.”

Following Niger’s military officers’ seizure of power and the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, the junta demanded the withdrawal of French troops; however, the US military based in the country maintained a drone base in Agadez in the north with 1,000 troops.

Bazoum, and his previous governments, had allowed the US military presence to train Nigerien forces and take part in what was described as counter-terrorism activities.

However, the new government's spokesman said the Nigerien junta considers the presence of US troops on Niger’s territory "illegal" because “it was not democratically approved and imposes unfavorable conditions on Niger, particularly in terms of lack of transparency on military activities.”

The junta also canceled two security and defense partnerships with the EU last year.

Instead, the West African country signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen defense cooperation with Russia last December.

Niger has also signed a trilateral defense agreement with neighboring Burkina Faso, and Mali, binding the three Sahel countries to assist one another in the event of a military attack on any one of them.

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