Niger has received new military equipment from Washington to support its fight against jihadists plaguing the west and southeast of the country, Niamey’s defense ministry told AFP on Wednesday.
The shipment consists mainly of vehicles, including armored models, the ministry said, with the consignment worth $13 million (8.5 billion CFA francs).
The new support for Niger “is proof of the strength of our relations with the United States” in view of the “rise in capacity” of the Niger Armed Forces, said Defense Minister Alkassoum Indatou, who received the equipment in Niamey.
The equipment will be used for a German-funded special forces training center in Tillia, in the western Tahoua region, where jihadist groups affiliated to the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda are active.
The equipment will also be used to train Niger soldiers serving with the United Nations mission in Mali, which also faces jihadist violence.
Niger and the United States have had a military cooperation agreement since 2015 on “security and good governance” under which the two countries committed “to work together on the fight against terrorism.”
The US military must also “train Niger’s military in the fight against terrorism,” according to the agreement.
Washington has in recent years increased its military presence in Niger, which has allowed it to build a large drone base at Agadez near Libya at an estimated cost of around $100 million.
In 2017, an estimated 800 US troops — mostly special forces — were deployed against jihadist groups.
The United States has since provided Niger with armored vehicles, military surveillance and transport planes, and a military communications and communications center to help it fight the jihadists.
On October 4, 2017, four United States soldiers and five Nigerien soldiers were killed in an ambush by the Islamic State group in Tongo Tongo, a village in the Tillaberi region in the “three borders” zone, which borders Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.