French and Nigerien military officers are discussing a partial withdrawal of certain French military elements deployed in Niger. However, the bulk of French forces in the Sahel will remain in Niamey.
But a person close to the discussions said: “A dialogue only at the local level, between soldiers, is certainly not a discussion between Paris and the junta.”
France needs to prepare the removal of sensitive equipment which is no longer in use. For the past month, the three Mirage 2000s, the four Reaper drones and some helicopters are grounded under hangars.
The French partnership with the Nigeriens no longer requires their presence on the planned air base of Niamey, a senior officer said, and their departure could be rapid and the personnel who serve them such as pilots, mechanics and technicians.
‘This is not the start of the departure’
The 150 French soldiers from Operation Almahaou stationed in Ouallam in Niger’s Liptako also remain, the soldiers told RFI’s French service “This is not the start of the departure,” another worker said, “even if the French military presence in Niger no longer seems to serve a specific objective.”
Most of the French forces in Niger are stationed on the planned air base (BAP) of Niamey, visible when landing in the country’s capital since it faces the civilian airport. The proposed airbase is not an Alamo fort, but is included in the Niger Armed Forces (FAN) air base 101 and to reach it, you have to cross three security cordons held by the FAN.
The BAP is made up of two distinct areas, a life base, with the command, the barracks, the canteen and then there is the technical area located along the runway, with the hangars and the aircraft.
The Niamey BAP accommodates 1,000 soldiers in limited comfort: they are confined in what is described as an austere setting, in a reduced perimeter. However, morale is good, the French soldiers told RFI LINK TO STORY ON AAfr. Until now, the base has always been supplied with fresh products.
Translated by Allafrica’s Michael Tantoh