Some U.S. military personnel and assets stationed at Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey are on the move to Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez. Photo by U.S. Air Forces Africa, Niger/UPI
Sept. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. troops stationed in Niger are being repositioned within the country as a precautionary measure, the Pentagon said Thursday, as the military coup in the West African nation nears 45 days old.
"This is simply a precautionary measure," Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters during a press conference Thursday, adding that some non-essential personnel and contractors have left the country.
"Our force posture hasn't changed in Niger. Our position remains the same, that we hope that the situation on the ground gets resolved diplomatically, but would just re-emphasize that there's no immediate threat to U.S. personnel or -- or violence on the ground."
The United States has roughly 1,100 soldiers stationed in Niger, representing its second-largest military presence in Africa. Over the past few years, Niamey has grown as a strategic partner in the turbulent Sahel region, but that relationship has been thrown into doubt following the July 26 coup d'etat that saw the military overthrow the democratic government of President Mohamed Bazoum.
Singh said some U.S. soldiers and assets were being moved from Air Base 101 in the capital Niamey 570 miles northeast to Agadez city's Air Base 201, a facility Congress authorized the U.S. Air Force to build in 2019 and which hosts U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
She did not have the number of soldiers involved in the move, but Singh said the movement was ongoing and that the U.S. military was not conducting joint operations or training with the Nigerien military at this time.
Over the past few years Niger has become an increasingly important security partner to Western countries, including the United States, in the Sahel region, which is plagued by terrorism.
According to a late July report from the Congressional Research Service, the West African nation had been characterized by U.S. officials prior to the coup as an emerging democracy and an important U.S. partner amid deepening insurgencies, political instability and Russian engagement in the Sahel region.
In response to the coup, West African leaders, the United States and other democratic nations have responded with punitive measures, including the halting of aid to Niger, which is one of the world's poorest countries.
Inaugurated in 2021, Bazoum's presidency was Niger's first-ever transition between one president and another.
There have been at least six military coups in Africa since 2020, including Niger and neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.