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A decade-long anti-jihadist operation is over: France has fully withdrawn its troops from Niger territory

Oleh TymchenkoWorld
Withdrawal of troops is a complex operation

The last French troops deployed in Niger as part of a ten-year anti-jihadist operation left the country on Friday, December 22. The withdrawal of the French contingent, which numbered about 1,500 people, began in October this year.

This was reported by France24. "Today's date marks the end of the French troops' stay in the Sahel," said Nigerian Army Lieutenant Salim Ibrahim.

After France's withdrawal from Niger, hundreds of American troops, as well as several Italian and German soldiers, remain in the country.

France said it would withdraw about 1,500 soldiers and pilots from Niger after the new ruling generals of the former French colony demanded their departure following a July 26 coup.

It was the third time in 18 months that French troops have been expelled from the Sahel country. They were forced to leave the former colonies of Mali last year and Burkina Faso earlier this year after military coups in those countries as well.

All three countries are battling a jihadist insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 and then spread to Niger and Burkina Faso. But a series of coups in the region since 2020 has led to a sharp decline in relations with the former colonial power France and a turn toward greater rapprochement with Russia.

Most of the French troops in Niger were stationed at an air base in the capital Niamey.

The smallest groups were redeployed with Nigerian soldiers to the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, where jihadist groups affiliated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are believed to be operating.

The withdrawal is a complex operation: convoys have to travel up to 1,700 kilometers along sometimes dangerous desert routes to the French center of operations in the Sahel in neighboring Chad.

It is worth noting that France's withdrawal from Mali last year left a bitter taste after the bases it once occupied in Menak, Gossa, and Timbuktu were quickly seized by the Russian private military company Wagner.

The military that came to power in Niger has banned the functioning of international organizations. In particular, UN agencies have suspended their work in areas where armed clashes are taking place.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said that Russia is trying to use coupists in Africa "as pawns in its global chess game." This is the 32nd military coup in 33 years on the African continent.

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