Home World US on alert after Russian troops occupy American military drone base

US on alert after Russian troops occupy American military drone base


Russian troops have taken over parts of an American airbase in Niger. Senior US officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, confirmed the news but immediately moved to downplay the situation at the base in Niger’s capital Niamey. Mr Austin insisted that the Russians posed no “risk” to US forces and claimed the Americans were safe.

The move comes after Niger’s military rulers ordered the US to withdraw troops from the country. The ruling African junta has repeatedly told the US to remove its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country. The US troops have been stationed in Niger to help counter Islamic insurgents in the region.

US Department of Defense officials said that the Russians were inside the US airbase but that the two sides were “not mingling”.

The Defense Secretary added: “The Russians are in a separate compound and don’t have access to US forces or access to our equipment. I’m always focused on the safety and protection of our troops. But right now, I don’t see a significant issue here in terms of our force protection.”

However, the proximity of the two forces has sparked alarm, given the rivalry between the two sides over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian troops have been in Niger for weeks but it remains unclear how long they have been stationed at the US Airbase, which is next to Diori Hamani international airport in Niamey.

Niger had previously served as a key ally in the US’ fight against Islamist groups, until a military coup last year.

Niger is in Africa’s Sahel region, which is considered the new global epicentre of ISIS.

Since the coup, Niger has instead turned to Russia for help fighting terror insurgents in the south of the country.

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, which are all run by military rulers, are among a growing number of African states who have severed ties with the West over the past year.

US forces have already been forced out of Chad in recent days, while French forces were recently kicked out of Mali and Burkina Faso earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Russia has sought to strengthen ties with several African nations, pitching itself as a country with no colonial baggage.

The head of the US Africa Command Gen Michael Langley has told the BBC the US is keen to remain engaged with Niger.

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