Russian military trainers arrive in Niger as African country pulls away from US

    WORLD  13 April 2024 - 13:29

    Russian military trainers have arrived to reinforce Niger’s air defences as the West African country pulls away from close cooperation with the US in counterterrorism efforts, turning instead to Moscow for help as it fights Islamist insurgents.

    State television in the country broadcast footage of Russian military trainers arriving in the country aboard a plane equipped with military supplies late on April 11, the Guardian reports.

    Two Russian trainers were filmed in front of the plane wearing military uniforms, caps and face coverings.

    “We are here to train the Nigerien army to use the military equipment that is here,” one of the Russian trainers said in the broadcast, speaking in French. “We are here to develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger”.

    The arrival of Russian forces makes it complicated for the US forces, along with diplomatic and civilian personnel, to remain in the country and throws into doubt the future of joint Niger-US counterinsurgency operations.

    Until recently, Washington considered Niger a key partner and ally in a region swept by coups in recent years, investing millions of dollars in an airbase in a desert area that served as the heart of American counterinsurgency operations in the sub-Saharan region known as the Sahel.

    The US also invested heavily in training Niger’s forces to beat back insurgencies by militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State which ravaged the country and its neighbours. But last summer, some of those elite US-trained forces took part in a coup that ousted the elected president.

    As recently as December, some 600 US troops and hundreds more contractors were stationed in Niger, tasked with flying manned and unmanned surveillance operations and supporting local forces against jihadist groups.

    Since then, relations between Niger’s new leaders and Washington have quickly deteriorated.

     

    Caliber.Az

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