The United States government has handed over a $16.5 million command and control centre to the Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN) to assist it in combating Boko Haram terrorists.
The node, comprising a new building, two deployable tactical operations centres, specialised communications equipment, radios, and training, was handed over by US Ambassador to Niger Eric Whitaker on 4 February.
He said it will streamline pertinent battlefield information to Commanders, so that they can best employ their forces. “Additionally, Commanders will be able to communicate with all assets under their command. We are confident the equipment and training received will be used successfully to carry out FAN tasks and missions.”
Whitaker noted that over the last two years, the US Government has provided Niger with Cessna C208 aircraft. “This gave Niger intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability to locate terrorists and other threats to its sovereignty. Additionally, we equipped the Base Defense Force in Agadez, four counter terrorism companies, and one logistics company. Finally, we gave Niger Armoured Personnel Vehicles and Mud Boats to pursue threats to Niger. We believe all these capabilities are critical to helping Niger defeat Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations wanting to cause harm within its borders.”
During the command and control centre handover, Whitaker said, “I am glad to present this gift to Niger because I know how much courage and determination Niger demonstrates against the security threats in the region. I pay tribute to the Defense and Security Forces who are currently conducting operations in different parts of the country while maintaining a high level of solidarity across borders. It will be written in the history books that when peace was threatened in the Sahel, Nigeriens rose to preserve it.”
Since 2018 the United States has been flying armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Niger to attack Islamist militants after Niger’s government in November 2017 gave the US permission to arm their UAVs. The US is completing a $100 million UAV base in the central city of Agadez.
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.