US and partners communicating with military leaders in Niger

White House and State Department watching 'fluid and evolving situation' as military officials take over African state

General Abdourahmane Tiani, centre right, who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrives to meet with ministers in Niamey, on July 28, 2023. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

The US and its partners are communicating with military leaders in Niger, a State Department representative said on Friday, as Washington said a military takeover could end US co-operation with the nation.

Coup leaders in Niger on Friday declared Gen Abdourahamane Tiani as the new head of state following the seventh military takeover in West and Central Africa in less than three years.

“This is a fluid and evolving situation. Military leaders from Ecowas nations and international partners including the United States are in communication with a broad array of military leaders in Niger,” the representative said.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Washington condemned any effort to seize power by force, saying a military takeover could cause the US to stop security and other co-operation with Niger.

The country in Africa's semi-arid Sahel region is a partner in Washington's fight against Islamist insurgents.

US military personnel have been training local forces to fight militant groups.

President Joe Biden's administration has also held up Niger as a democratic success story in the region.

“A military takeover may cause the United States to cease security and other co-operation with the government of Niger, jeopardising existing security and non-security partnerships,” Mr Kirby said, saying the US was “deeply concerned” about developments in Niger.

US law on foreign aid prohibits most assistance to any country where the elected head of government has been deposed in a coup or by decree, unless the Secretary of State determines that providing aid is in the national security interest of the US.

Niger soldiers declare coup on national TV

Niger soldiers declare coup on national TV

So far in fiscal year 2023, the US has provided nearly $138 million in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable populations in Niger, the representative said.

The US between fiscal year 2017 and 2022 allocated $387 million in bilateral health and development assistance for State Department and US Agency for International Development programming.

Over the same period, the US committed $281 million in security assistance for counter-terrorism operations, law enforcement, justice institutions and other uses, the representative said.

There are about 1,100 US troops in Niger, where the US military operates from two bases.

The Pentagon on Friday said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was closely monitoring events.

“At this time, there have been no changes in US force posture nor has DoD received any formal requests for assistance,” a Department of Defence official said.

Late on Thursday, the Senate confirmed a new US ambassador to Niger, career foreign service officer Kathleen FitzGibbon, nearly a year after she was nominated.

The State Department representative said there was no announcement about when she would travel to Niger.

Updated: July 29, 2023, 4:46 AM