Expulsion of Western troops shows Africa's awakening sense of security autonomy

China Military Online
Li Jiayao
2024-04-29 18:42:36

By Ma Hanzhi and Li Xiaoyu

After meeting with Niger's Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine in Washington on April 19, Kurt Campbell, US Deputy Secretary of State, announced that the US would withdraw about 1,000 US troops stationed in Niger and close its drone base in Niger at the request of the Nigerien side. At the same time, Chad is said to have asked the US troops to leave. It is reported that most of the US troops might be withdrawn to Mauritania.

The US-France cooperation on "counter-terrorism" will be unsustainable. Since the civil conflict erupted in Mali in 2012, the regional offshoots of terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and ISIS, gradually gained strength and spread to the entire Sahel region. Thus, the US and European countries continued to increase their anti-terrorism investment in this region. Among them, the US and French militaries cooperated closely and were considered to be the leading forces. In October 2015, the US and Niger signed a military cooperation agreement and the US sent 1,100 plus soldiers to Niger, who were settled at two aviation bases. One base is located at Niamey, the capital of Niger, and the other is the Agadez drone base, which is the second largest armed drone base on the African continent after the US military base in Djibouti.

At the end of July 2023, the Nigerian military declared via national television that it had overthrown the regime of President Mohamed Bazoum. The coup junta, led by Abdourahamane Tchiani, leader of Niger's presidential guard, announced the cancellation of military agreement with the French army. As a close comrade in the fight against terrorism in Africa, France withdrew all its troops in December 2023, officially ending a decade-long anti-terrorism operation in the Sahel region. After the coup in Niger, the US still hoped to maintain security cooperation with the country, but ultimately failed.

Accordingly, the fact of the US and French troops being dislodged from relevant African countries reflects Africa's strong dissatisfaction with the ineffectiveness of the West-led counter-terrorism. The US and Western countries stationed their troops in the Sahel region in the name of anti-terrorism, but the situation of counter-terrorism in the region deteriorated sharply. The reasons lie in the fact that the US and Western countries are not willing to help Africa fight against terrorists in real terms, but want to go all out to engage in great power competition, and that they are concerned that they will lose their existing spheres of influence in Africa as well.

The military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and other countries that came to power through coups have their own thinking and judgment on the national security situation. Even if from the perspective of maintaining the legitimacy of their ruling, they will strive to break the existing pattern of security cooperation. It should be said that the proximity of these countries to Russia is mainly attributed to the fact that the US and the West just do not want to counter terrorism with African countries, but only to seek self-interest in these countries. The West is accustomed to regarding relevant African countries' military cooperation with Russia and estrangement from the US and the West after the coup as a play of great power competition. However, such a view ignores the  autonomy of Africa itself.

Against the backdrop of slow economic development and weak governance in recent years, multiple factors affecting African security including terrorism have continued to rise, and the security situation in Africa is facing grave challenges. In this context, African countries are speeding up efforts to solve their own problems of terrorism. After the coup, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso signed the Liptako-Gourma Charter to establish the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) and jointly resist external interference, reflecting the strong aspirations of these countries to safeguard their own sovereignty and security.

(The authors are assistant researchers from China Institute of International Studies.)

Editor's note: Originally published on china.com.cn, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.

Related News