By: Jake Smith, Daily Caller News Foundation
The United States has sunk $500 million over the last decade into training and equipping Niger’s armed forces, which have now overthrown the democratically-elected president of the country.
Nigerien armed forces declared that they removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power amid a coup that began last Wednesday, spearheaded by a general who studied at the Department of Defense-backed College of International Security Affairs, Reuters reported. The U.S. has spent $500 million on training and arming Nigerien soldiers and stationing more than 1,000 U.S. troops in the region, according to the U.S. Embassy in Niger.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said over the weekend that the U.S.’s partnership with Niger is in “clear jeopardy.”
“Our economic and security partnership with Niger, which is significant, hundreds of millions of dollars, depends on the continuation of the democratic governance and constitutional order that has been disrupted by the actions in the last few days,” Blinken said at a press conference on Saturday. “So that assistance, that support, is in clear jeopardy as a result of these actions, which is another reason why they need to be immediately reversed.”
As of 2021, the U.S. has spent $500 million since 2012 on security aid for Niger, according to the U.S. Embassy in Niger. This includes training programs for Nigerien armed forces through “a long-term capacity-building program” as well as pre-deployment training and equipment for soldiers in two Nigerien battalions.
It also includes funds for Niger’s armed forces command, and an expansion of Niger’s intelligence and surveillance capabilities, and vehicles and fuel storage equipment.
Moreover, the man who spearheaded efforts to overthrow Bazoum is Abdourahamane Tchiani, a Nigerien general in charge of an elite unit entrusted with protecting the president. Tchiani received his military training in Morocco, France, Senegal and the United States – where he attended the College of International Security Affairs (CISA) in Washington D.C, according to a biography released by the new military rule, Reuters reported.
CISA is “the Department of Defense flagship for education and the building of partner capacity in combating terrorism, irregular warfare, and integrated deterrence at the strategic level,” according to the school’s website.
Nigerien soldiers and presidential bodyguards turned on Bazoum last week and locked him inside the presidential palace, declaring their intent to overthrow the democratically-elected president.
Nigerien armed forces have shut down flights out of the Agadez drone base, which the U.S. spent part of the $500 million security aid package on to build, according to the U.S. Embassy in Niger. Niger’s border is now sealed and a nationwide curfew has been declared, Reuters reported.
On Monday, Niger armed forces began arresting politicians in the democratically-elected government, including the mines minister, the oil minister and the head of the ruling party, according to Reuters. Military groups of neighboring countries, including Burkina Faso and Guinea, declared their support for Niger’s coup leaders and warned that foreign military intervention would be considered an act of war, Reuters reported.
Tchiani said the military seized power from Bazoum because of regional insecurity as a result of years of Islamist insurgency, according to Reuters. He declared himself head of state during an appearance on state television last Friday, Reuters reported.
“We cannot continue with the same approaches proposed so far, as it risks witnessing the gradual and inevitable disappearance of our nation,” Tchiani said.
Like Blinken, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller wouldn’t call Niger’s military takeover a coup, instead referring to it as an “attempt” to remove Bazoum from power.
“It is still an ongoing, fluid situation. It is clear that there has been an attempt to remove President Bazoum from office,” Miller said on Monday. “It’s not yet clear that attempt will ultimately be successful, so we are watching and monitoring the situation and trying to prevent President Bazoum from being removed from office.”
As of now, the U.S. has not declared the situation in Niger a coup. U.S. law prohibits foreign aid to any country where the elected leader has been overthrown in a “coup d’etat,” Reuters reported.
“We have made very clear, Secretary Blinken has made very clear, that the future – that the hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance that the U.S. has provided and is continuing to provide to Niger is very much in the balance, depending on the outcome of the actions in the country,” Miller said.
The U.S. military has suspended training and advising Nigerien armed forces, according to Politico reporter Lara Seligman.
The Pentagon, the White House, CISA and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.