President of France Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday that his military will leave Niger by the end of the year. File Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- France will remove its military from Niger by the end of the year, President Emmanuel Macron said, following growing outward animosity targeting Paris in the West African nation where its civilian-run government was overthrown in a July coup d'etat.
Macron made the announcement Sunday during an interview with French television channels TFI and France 2.
"We are putting an end to our military cooperation with the de facto authorities of Niger, because they no longer want to fight terrorism anymore," he said.
Macron also said France's ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itté, was to return home in the next few hours.
The usurping National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country described Macron's announcement as a "historic movement" for Niger.
"Any person, any institution or structure whose presence threatens the interests and projections of our country will have to leave the land of our ancestors, whether they like it or not," it said in a statement.
"Imperialist and neo-colonialist forces are no longer welcome on our national territory."
Over the last few years, Niger has grown in importance as a ally to the West in the turbulent Sahel region that has experienced growing insurgencies and political instability, among other issues, including an increase in Russian activities.
In the West African nation, France has maintained some 1,500 troops and the United States some 1,100 for anti-terrorism purposes. But their future there came under question after Niger's military under Abdourahamane Tchiani arrested Western ally and democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum to seize control of Niamey on July 26.
Since then, there have been protests denouncing France's presence in the country, and on Aug. 31, it ordered the expulsion of Itté and his wife.
France had previously said it does not respond to demands by a government it does not recognize.
The United States had halted its military operations in Niger, and earlier this month began moving troops and assets from Air Base 101 in the capital Niamey some 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.
The exit of France's troops raises questions if the Americans are to follow.
Along with military cooperation with Niger, U.S. aid has also been suspended and Washington and other allies have imposed sanctions against the junta since its coup -- the latest to occur in the region which has seen at least six executed successfully since 2020.