The attack on US troops in Niger that left four US soldiers dead earlier this month has triggered a broader discussion about the United State’s military engagement in Africa and the public’s knowledge about it.
US Military Presence in Niger and Africa: 3 Things You Need To Know
1. What Exactly Happened in The Niger Ambush against US Troops?
The details about the mission in Niger that led to four US and five Nigerien (Not to confused with Nigeria) soldiers being killed in an attack reportedly carried out by local militants likely linked with the “Islamic State” group on October 4 in Niger remain sketchy up till today but what was released to the public was that a group of 12 US special forces troops that accompanied 30 Nigerien soldiers during what initially was a reconnaissance mission outside the country’s capital Niamey got caught in an extended firefight with a large group of militants. And the shootoit that occured therein claimed the lives of four US soldiers and Five Niger soldiers.
2. What is the US Military doing in Niger, and in Africa More Generally?
While questions about what exactly US troops are doing in Niger are understandable given the recent ambush that led to the death of gour American soldiers, the fact has long been public that US soldiers are based in the country and that their numbers increased during Obama’s regime. Apparently during his regime, President Barack Obama began to up the troop levels in Niger to bolster intelligence-gathering efforts and support French forces operating in neighboring Mali in 2013.
The Pentagon also said publicly last September that, at the request of the Nigerien Government (not to be confused with Nigerian Government), it was spending $100 million (€85 million) to build a temporary base for surveillance drones in the country in an effort to monitor terrorist activities in the region. Currently, according to the Defense Department, 800 US troops are deployed to Niger.
As regards US military Presence in Africa in general, “General Dunford” – America’s highest-ranking military pfficer – stated that Currently some 6,000 American soldiers are currently deployed to missions in 53 African countries.
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3. How Successful is The US Military Presence in Africa?
The United State’s military strategy in Africa broadly mirrors its previous efforts to combat terrorism elsewhere and focuses on partnering and training with local governments who are expected to provide the bulk of the military personnel and effort.
While the US has thus relatively small contingents of troops deployed in most African countries it is present in, the number of 800 US military personnel in Niger still cannot be compared to the number of personnel deployed by US development agencies to the country, said Goodman, which many view as lopsided.
What’s more, a study released earlier this year, written by Professor Biddle about the military effectiveness of the US strategy of training and advising allied militaries (also called security force assistance or SFA) using a comparatively small number of American forces, like in Niger, found it was problematic. “For SFA , small footprints will usually mean small payoffs,” it concluded.