The Sahel state of Niger is urging former soldiers and police to get back into uniform to help the years-long battle against jihadists, security sources said on Tuesday.
The authorities began an operation on Monday aimed at mustering a thousand men, “who won’t go directly to the front, but will be used to secure important sites,” one source said.
Colonel Abdoulaye Mounkaila, a retired officer and member of Niger’s Military Reserve Commission, told state TV that the defense ministry was “appealing to former soldiers and gendarmes who have been retired five years” or less.
The returnees — for which specialists are particularly sought — will provide “relief for the defence and security forces, which are constantly on active duty,” he said.
Niger, the poorest state in the world by the benchmark of the UN’s Human Development Index, is struggling with two jihadist emergencies.
Militants who swept in from neighboring Mali have been carrying out bloody attacks in the southwest of the country since 2015.
In the southeast, Niger is suffering from the spillover from the ongoing jihadist insurgency in northeast Nigeria, which has affected neighboring states in the Lake Chad region.
In 2020, the country had declared the goal of doubling armed forces personnel, from 25,000 to 50,000 over the following five years.
It has also pushed back retirement age for non-commissioned ranks from 47 to 52.
The country is getting logistical and training support from former colonial power France, as well as from the United States, Italy, Germany, and Belgium.
France and the United States both have important military bases in the vast arid country, while Germany has a logistics base.