The United States has delivered an initial batch of military equipment to Niger as part of efforts to strengthen the G5 Sahel group’s fight against terrorism and insecurity. The US has pledged $21 million of equipment to the West African country.
The equipment was handed over in a ceremony in the capital Niamey on 6 June by US Army Major Maia Molina-Schaefer, chief, Office of Security Cooperation, and received by Nigerien Defence Minister Kalla Moutari.
The first batch of equipment included transport, fuel, and water trucks; GPS-enabled navigation systems; fuel containers; military tents and individual soldier equipment.
The shipment, along with forthcoming armoured and tactical vehicles, communication equipment, and personal protective gear, will bolster Niger’s capability to deploy the mobile infantry force assigned to the G5 Sahel Joint Force and improve security along Niger’s Mali and Burkina Faso borders, said Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Moutari.
Moutari hailed the equipment as a major contribution to Nigerien defense and reminded everyone that it demonstrated the United States’ commitment to helping Niger in its fight against terrorist organizations.
The ceremony was also attended by Nigerien Gen. Ahmed Mohamed, chief of defense forces, US Ambassador to Niger Eric P. Whitaker, Principal Director for African Affairs Michelle Lenihan, and US Air Force Maj. Gen. Christopher E. Craige, director of strategy, engagement, and programmes for US Africa Command.
The US Army said the United States’ assistance to the G5 Sahel Joint Force is just one component of the larger and longer-term security sector support the US provides to Niger. The embassy’s office of security cooperation arranged for Niger to receive 21 armoured personnel carriers. In addition, the US has provided four medical evacuation aircraft, as well as training for Nigerien pilots and maintenance crews. Between 2013 and 2015 Niger received four Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft from the United States, with two configured for surveillance.
Today, those armored vehicles and aircraft are directly supporting operations in the fight against terrorism, the US Army said. Additionally, OSC Niger coordinates professional military education training and conferences that send Nigerien officers and soldiers to the US for training on human rights, combat medical skills, logistics, and communications.
During the ceremony, Whitaker spoke about the strong partnership between the two countries and the dedication Niger has shown to supporting security efforts in the region.
“When peace was threatened in the Sahel, Nigeriens rose to preserve it,” he said.
Other support provided by the United States this year included a $16.5 million command and control centre, which was handed over to the Nigerien Armed Forces in February. The node comprises a new building, two deployable tactical operations centres, specialised communications equipment and radios.
The US military presence in Niger has expanded in recent years to an 800-strong force that accompanies Nigerien troops on intelligence gathering and other missions, reflecting US concerns about rising militancy in West Africa’s Sahel region.