An official representing a bloc of West African nations said Wednesday that military intervention in Niger to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum is the “last resort” but warned that the coalition is preparing for it.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a statement on Sunday threatening to use force if Bazoum isn’t reinstated within a week, a threat backed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“(The) military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah, according to AFP. He added that an ECOWAS team is in Niger to “negotiate.”
ECOWAS is a 15-nation bloc, but after a series of coups in West Africa, it has suspended several members, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and now Niger. Mali and Burkina Faso have warned ECOWAS that intervening in Niger would be considered a “declaration of war” against them.
Any intervention in Niger would likely involve the US military as there are about 1,100 US troops in the country and a major drone base that cost $110 million to build, known as Air Base 201. According to Task & Purpose, the US cannot currently use Air Base 201 because Niger’s airspace has been closed since the coup.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that it had suspended “security cooperation” with Niger’s military, but the US still hasn’t labeled the situation a coup, as that would require a suspension of US aid.
“As far as security cooperation, those efforts right now are suspended in light of the situation, but certainly we maintain close contact with our Niger military counterparts in the country as the situation continues to unfold,” said Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
Ryder also said there are currently no plans to pull US forces from Niger. On Wednesday, the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of embassy personnel from Niger.