French Troops Withdraw from Niger, Marking the Decline of Paris’ Influence in Sahel Region

France’s military presence comes to an end in the West African nation of Niger as the year 2023 draws to a close, marking the withdrawal of French troops from the region after centuries of colonialism in the Sahel region of Africa. This withdrawal is the third of its kind within a year and a half, with French troops departing Africa. According to Reuters, the last French troops deployed in Niger to combat a decade-old Islamist insurgency in the Sahel left the country on Friday, marking a further blow to France’s influence in West Africa.
This move comes in the wake of the military coup in Niger in July, with army officers making France’s military exit one of their key demands. Similar demands were echoed by juntas in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, severing longstanding security ties with France after coups in 2020-2022. French President Emmanuel Macron had initially pushed back but announced in September that 1,500 troops would pull out of Niger by the end of the year, as reported by Reuters. The full French withdrawal from Mali was completed in August 2022, and in Burkina Faso this February. Before the coup, Niger was a key security partner of France and the United States.
A document marking the official end of France’s military engagement with Niger was signed by both parties in the capital Niamey on Friday, with a last group of French soldiers in fatigues and backpacks boarding a military plane that took off shortly after.
The French exit leaves just hundreds of US military personnel and a number of Italian and German troops remaining in the country. The relations have nosedived with France since a string of coups in the region. France still has 1,000 troops in neighboring Chad, the base for its Sahel anti-jihadist operations, while Italy diplomat has expressed concern, stating that France’s departure presents its European partners with a dilemma. The void left by France, if not filled, would be immediately filled by the Russians.

These recent events signal a significant shift in the balance of power in the Sahel region. As French influence wanes, other global powers are poised to step in, bringing about a new era of geopolitical dynamics in the region. This development will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the security and stability of the Sahel, as well as for the broader geopolitical landscape in Africa.

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