US Set To Evacuate Embassy Staff From Niger

Nigerien security forces prepare to disperse pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy, in Niamey, the capital city of Niger July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Souleymane Ag Anara
August 2, 2023

The United States is set to evacuate some staff and families from its embassy in Niger after military officers seized power, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, even as the mission will remain open and senior leadership will continue working from there.

Niger is a key Western ally in a fight against Islamist insurgents. Foreign powers have condemned the takeover, fearing it could allow the militants to gain ground.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a final decision was still pending but it appeared likely.

"This is a prudent move in case the security situation deteriorates, and the core embassy staff will remain," the official said.

The official added that the U.S. personnel would be moved out of Niger by aircraft chartered by the State Department and military aircraft would not be used.

Politico first reported the news.

France, the United States, Germany, and Italy have troops in Niger on counterinsurgency and training missions, helping the army to fight groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

France and Italy are evacuating European citizens from Niger and the first military planes carrying European nationals landed in Paris and Rome on Wednesday.

There has been no announcement of troops being withdrawn so far. There are about 1,100 U.S. troops in Niger, where the U.S. military operates from two bases.

The United States was criticized for its handling of the evacuation of U.S. citizens in Sudan after the sudden eruption of violence between the military and the well-armed Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group on April 15 turned residential areas into war zones and prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

Washington evacuated all government personnel from the U.S. embassy in Khartoum and suspended operations there due to the security risks.

But U.S. citizens faced struggles leaving the country amid the violence and encountered robbery and looting.

At the time, the Biden administration said U.S. military aircraft were not required to evacuate citizens since there was enough space on aircraft from other countries flying in and out of the country.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Mark Porter and Lisa Shumaker)