The commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa told reporters Wednesday that the US is considering moving its drone base in Niger following the July 26 coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
“There are several locations I’ll say that we’re looking at, but nothing’s firmed up. We have talked to some countries about it,” said Gen. James Hecker, according to Defense One.
The US’s main drone base in Niger, known as Air Base 201, cost $110 million to build and $20 million – $30 million each year to maintain. According to The Intercept’s Nick Turse, who focuses on US military operations in Africa, Air Base 201 is “the linchpin of the US military’s archipelago of bases in North and West Africa and a key part of America’s wide-ranging intelligence, surveillance, and security efforts in the region.”
Hecker said the Air Force was waiting to see how diplomacy with the post-coup government plays out. He said the “diplomatic solution is going pretty well right now.”
There are signs that the US would be willing to cooperate with the post-coup government, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani. The Biden administration has yet to formally label the situation in Niger a coup, which would require the US to cut off all military assistance.
CNN reported last month that the US was considering issuing a waiver if it declared a coup to continue US military operations in the country, where about 1,100 US troops are stationed.
US military flights were initially grounded after the coup, but Hecker said most operations have resumed at this point. The Pentagon on Thursday insisted that the US has only resumed surveillance flights, not counterterrorism operations.