US to Complete Withdrawal from Niger by Sept. 15

A screengrab of a satellite image shows the view of Airbase 101, next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, April 21, 2024. 2024 Planet Labs Inc./Handout via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights
A screengrab of a satellite image shows the view of Airbase 101, next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, April 21, 2024. 2024 Planet Labs Inc./Handout via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights
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US to Complete Withdrawal from Niger by Sept. 15

A screengrab of a satellite image shows the view of Airbase 101, next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, April 21, 2024. 2024 Planet Labs Inc./Handout via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights
A screengrab of a satellite image shows the view of Airbase 101, next to Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, April 21, 2024. 2024 Planet Labs Inc./Handout via REUTERS Purchase Licensing Rights

Niger and the United States have reached an agreement on the withdrawal of American troops from the West African country, a process that has already begun and will be finished by Sept. 15, they said in a joint statement.

Niger's ruling junta last month told the US to withdraw its nearly 1,000 military personnel from the country. Until a coup last year Niger had been a key partner in Washington's fight against insurgents in the Sahel region of Africa, who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

The agreement between Niger's defense ministry and the US Department of Defense, reached after a five-day meeting, guarantees the protection of US troops until their withdrawal and establishes procedures to ease the entry and exit of American personnel during the withdrawal process.

"The Ministry of Defense of Niger and the US Department of Defense recall the common sacrifices of the Nigerien and American forces in the fight against terrorism and welcome the mutual efforts made in building up the Nigerien armed forces," they said in a joint statement.

"The withdrawal of American forces from Niger in no way affects the pursuit of relations between the United States and Niger in the area of development. Also, Niger and the United States are committed to an ongoing diplomatic dialogue to define the future of their bilateral relations."

A senior US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that about 100 US troops had already been moved out of the country.

The United States will remove sensitive equipment it has in Niger, but will leave behind other larger pieces like air conditioning units, generators and hangars, a separate US defense official said, Reuters reported.

The United States will let Nigerien forces use that equipment left behind, if it meets legal standards, the official said.

The official added that it did not appear that the Nigerien junta wanted to hand over counter-terrorism operations to Russian troops or those from the Wagner private military company.

"I think we tend to believe what they've told us, at least the CNSP, which is they're not looking for any foreign forces in large numbers here," the official said, using an acronym for Niger's ruling military council.

Niger's decision to ask for the removal of US troops came after a meeting in Niamey in mid-March, when senior US officials raised concerns about issues such as the expected arrival of Russian forces and reports of Iran seeking raw materials in the country, including uranium.



President: Philippines Not in Business of Instigating Wars

FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
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President: Philippines Not in Business of Instigating Wars

FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Philippines' President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. looks on as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/File Photo

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Sunday his country is not in the business of instigating wars and will always aim to settle disputes peacefully, amid escalating maritime confrontations with China.
"In defending the nation, we stay true to our Filipino nature that we would like to settle all these issues peacefully," Marcos said in a speech to troops of the Western Command unit in charge of overseeing the South China Sea.
Philippine navy personnel and the Chinese coast guard had their latest clash during a routine resupply mission by Manila in the South China Sea last week, in which it said a sailor was severely injured and vessels damaged.
China's Coast Guard personnel carrying knives and spears looted firearms and "deliberately punctured" Philippine boats involved in the mission, the Philippine military said.
China disputed the Philippine account, with a foreign ministry spokesperson saying on Thursday the necessary measures taken were lawful, professional and beyond reproach.
Marcos, who did not name China in his speech, commended the troops for exercising restraint "amidst intense provocation", and said his country would always exercise its freedoms and rights in line with international law.
"In the performance of our duties, we will not resort to the use of force or intimidation, or deliberately inflict injury or harm to anyone," Reuters quoted Marcos as saying. "We stand firm. Our calm and peaceful disposition should not be mistaken for acquiescence."
Recent maritime run-ins between China and the Philippines, a US treaty ally in Southeast Asia, have made the highly strategic South China Sea a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.
The United States has condemned China's actions and reaffirmed its ironclad defense commitments against any attack on Philippine aircraft or vessels in the South China Sea under their mutual defense treaty.
But the Philippines said on Friday there was no reason to invoke the treaty because China's actions, which security officials have described as escalatory, could not be classified as an "armed attack".
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual shipborne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China's claims had no legal basis, a decision Beijing has rejected.
"We are not in the business to instigate wars - our great ambition is to provide a peaceful and prosperous life for every Filipino," Marcos said. "We refuse to play by the rules that force us to choose sides in a great power competition."