Africom Commander visits Niger, assesses security situation


General Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, culminated his multi-country West Africa regional visit in Niger, where he met with President Mahamadou Issoufou, senior Nigerien military officers, and deployed US troops between 18 and 19 September.

During his visit, he discussed security and defence-related issues, as well as Niger’s participation in multinational operations geared at countering threats on multiple borders.

Niger is one of two countries that contribute to both the G5 Sahel Joint Task Force and the Multinational Joint Task Force. Chad also contributes to both.

“Niger has been a willing and engaged partner in the fight against violent extremist organizations,” said Townsend. “Niger is committed to building its defence capacity and containing and degrading terrorist networks in Africa.”

He added that one way the US military supports its partners is through intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) collection and sharing that information with its partners.

During additional recent exchanges with US Africa Command officials, a senior-level Nigerien leader noted the value of US training, intelligence sharing, and the US and Niger partnership.

“We are very grateful to the US for the support and assistance extended to us in our fight against terrorism,” said Ambassador Abdallah Wafy, Nigerien Ambassador to the US. “Terrorism has no future in the Sahel and will be defeated. We need peace, stability, and democracy to build a better world for all…We very much value the partnership with the United States.”

Currently, ISR operations are conducted out of Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey. Upon completion of civil aviation assessments of the recently completed runway, Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez will offer enhanced capability to regional partners. Nigerien Air Base 201 will ultimately possess an ability to support an array of aircraft and missions to include added ISR options.

“Nigerien Air Base 201 will offer tremendous capability, agility, versatility and provides a range of security options to Niger,” said Townsend. “This capability will benefit the entire region.”

While awaiting the official assessment required by the Nigerien Civil Aviation Authority, the Nigerien Air Force and the US Air Force agreed to begin flying limited operations at Air Base 201 on 1 August.

Ambassador Eric P Whitaker noted that the commander’s visit underscores the United States’ commitment to training and equipping Niger’s defence and security forces to counter regional threats and deter criminal activity as a part of our strong bilateral partnership.

“Our US military and defence colleagues work with Nigerien military and police throughout the country,” said Ambassador Whitaker. “Our goal is to enable Niger’s defence and security forces to develop and sustain a professional force and contribute to peacekeeping efforts.”

“Niger is a regional security leader,” said Townsend. “We believe strongly in this shared partnership and look forward to continuing our cooperation in order to bring increased security and stability to Niger and the region.”

Townsend also visited Mali and Burkina Faso as part of a larger West Africa regional visit.