By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
The Pentagon said its continued presence in Niger sends a message of hope for a possible diplomatic resolution to the “issue,” despite largely unsuccessful outreach from the State Department to get cooperation from the military officials attempting to take over the country.
While the Department of Defense (DOD) has paused joint training with the Nigerien armed forces, “some” security cooperation activities continue while the State Department and regional governments attempt to pressure the coup leaders to restore the ousted president, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a briefing Tuesday. Although the latest U.S. recent diplomatic outreach met with a rigid response, the U.S. remains in contact with the “junta” that seized power on July 26, the Nigerien people and ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, Singh said.
“I think the fact that our force posture has not changed sends a message that we’re committed to the region, we’re committed to Niger,” she said. “If something does happen that needs to adjust, we will adjust, but right now, that is where we stand.”
“We hope that this issue can be resolved peacefully,” she added.
A diplomatic solution remains elusive after Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland made a “difficult” trip to Niger, saying Monday from the West African country she had proposed U.S. assistance in reconciling the concerns of all parties but did not find the junta receptive.
She met with one of the coup participants, formerly considered a close U.S. ally, but was denied an audience with Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who spearheaded the takeover.
“They are quite firm in their view on how they want to proceed, and it does not comport with the constitution of Niger … it was difficult today, and I will be straight up about that,” she said at a press briefing.
The U.S. has about 1,000 troops in Niger tasked with training the Nigerien military and conducting counterterrorism operations. So far, the Pentagon has no intent to withdraw or permanently suspend certain cooperation activities, but Nuland made a point to tell the soldiers who carried out the coup that U.S. security and economic assistance would legally cease if the leaders failed to adhere to the democratic process.
“It sends an incredibly effective message that we have not changed our force posture that we have not taken our troops out right now because we want to send a message to the Nigeriens that we stand with you,” Singh said. If the junta began threatening the lives of American troops, then things could change, she added.
The U.S. embassy continues to function at a reduced level of operations.
The coup leaders announced a new prime minister, former Finance Minister Lamine Zen, and a new head of the presidential guard on Monday, according to The New York Times.
Ruling leaders refused a delegation of United Nations, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders seeking a meeting, the NYT reported.
Related Story: 5 Things to Know About the Coup in Niger