Last week, a U.S. delegation met with Nigerien officials, expressing concerns over Niger’s potential relationships with Russia and Iran, as well as the status of U.S. forces in the country, said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh who spoke to the media today.

“The lengthy and direct discussions included an exchange of views on how to chart a new path of cooperation forward, emphasizing the importance of respecting Niger’s sovereignty, and concerns from both sides,” she said.

The Defense Department is aware of the March 16 statement by Niger’s officials announcing an end to the status of forces agreement between Niger and the United States, she said. “We are working through diplomatic channels to seek clarification. These are ongoing discussions.”  

The delegation included Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, commander of U.S. Africa Command; Mary Catherine Phee, assistant secretary of state for African affairs; and Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. 

The delegation, she said, met with Nigerien Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine, several cabinet members, civil society organizations, technical experts and advisors, as well as members of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, which is the ruling military junta of Niger. 

The meetings also included diplomats from other partner nations and international organizations, Singh added. 

Currently, there are about 1,000 U.S. military personnel, including contractors, in Niger. Since the July 26 coup last year in Niger, their mission has been force protection and consolidating from Air Base 101 in Niamey, the capital, to Air Base 201 in the city of Agadez. Their previous counterterrorism mission ceased since the coup, she said. 

On July 26, Niger’s military removed democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum from office and replaced him with Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, who served as the commander of the Nigerien presidential guard. The group subsequently formed the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, also called the CNSP.

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