U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, AFRICOM command senior enlisted leader, visited Niamey and Agadez, Niger, between 24 and 25 January.
Niger is an important partner to the United States. The U.S. and Niger have a long-standing bilateral relationship and have been stalwart allies focused on working together to deter and to defeat terrorist threats in the West African nation and across the Sahel region, AFRICOM said.
During the visit, Waldhauser met with Nigerien defense officials including the Nigerien Minister of Defense, Kalla Moutari, and the Nigerien Chief of Defense, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Mohamed. They discussed current and future defense cooperation between the two nations.
The U.S. military does not have an active, direct combat mission in Niger. AFRICOM provides training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to facilitate their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region. This training includes advising and assisting Nigeriens to increase their organic ability to bring stability and security to their country, AFRICOM said.
A major effort of U.S. forces in West Africa, in coordination with Nigerien and other West African governments, is to support a range of security and capacity building efforts in the greater Sahel region. These efforts support U.S. diplomatic and national security objectives and are designed to strengthen relationships with African partners, promote stability and security, and enable African partners to address their security threats.
These capacity building efforts include tactical security, logistics, and medical training, command and control, disease outbreak response, and various other types of supporting instruction.
In addition to military-to-military training, Niger has been a regular participant in regional military exercises including Flintlock. Exercise Flintlock is an annual, African-led special operations forces exercise which has strengthened key partner nation forces throughout North and West Africa as well as European and North American special operations forces since 2005. Niger hosted Flintlock in 2014, was one of the locations of Flintlock in 2017, and is scheduled to host this year’s exercise.
Waldhauser also visited Airbase 201 in Agadez to meet with base leadership and received updates on the construction happening there. While in Agadez, they also met with local civic, government, and Nigerien military leaders.
At the request of, and in close coordination with the Government of Niger and the Nigerien Armed Forces, AFRICOM is establishing a temporary, expeditionary contingency support location in Agadez. Geographically and strategically, Agadez presents an attractive option from which to base intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets that are able to identify and monitor the threats in the region and reduce some of the complexity of operating with the vast distance of African geography. The location in Agadez will improve AFRICOM’s capability to support Niger and other partner nations in the region.
This was Waldhauser’s second visit to Niger. The first was in November 2016.