On a visit to Niger, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the Bundeswehr’s training mission in the West African nation as a success. He also called for a follow-up project.
During a visit to the training camp at Tillia, located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with Mali, Scholz thanked German soldiers for their commitment to democracy and freedom in Niger.
The training of Nigerien special forces at a military base in Tillia is scheduled to finish at the end of the year because it has fulfilled its task, Scholz said.
But he did recognize the success of the Bundeswehr’s training mission there, and said “a follow-up project” would be examined.
Niger keen for extension
In an interview with DW, Niger President Mohamed Bazoum welcomed the prospect of an extension or an alternative project.
“Germany has provided high quality training that is very much appreciated by our Armed Forces,” he said. “That training ends in December, but I’ve asked the German chancellor that we look together at how we can extend that mission to get the maximum benefit from it.”
Approximately 200 German soldiers are currently involved in the mission, which has been operational since 2018 and is part of the EU training mission EUTM.
According to the deputy camp commander, around 500 special forces of the Nigerien army have been trained to fight Islamist militants in the region.
This year alone, 15 instructors were also trained.
Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum welcomed a possible extension of the mission. Military cooperation with Germany has “achieved good results and is a model,” Bazoum said after speaking with Scholz in the capital, Niamey.
‘Anchor of stability’ in Sahel
On Friday, the Bundestag decided to end the Bundeswehr’s participation in the EUTM mission in the neighboring country of Mali, which is run by a military government.
However, the Bundeswehr is to continue to participate in the UN peacekeeping force in Mali, MINUSMA, and the upper limit for troop strength has even been raised to 1,400 soldiers by the Bundestag.
The German government has described Niger as the “anchor of stability” in the Sahel region, which stretches south of the Sahara Desert from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east. Several armed groups are active there, and some have sworn allegiance to “Islamic State” or al-Qaeda.
The instability in the Sahel is one reason why thousands of people from the region are making their way to Europe.
Scholz kicked off his first official trip to Africa over the weekend with a visit to Senegal, which currently chairs the African Union.