French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that French will remove its troops and ambassador from Niger, as the military junta that took over the country in July wants French forces out.
“France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said on French TV, according to AP. “And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.”
The comments show France is backing down from its hardline position on the military junta that ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum. Macron previously strongly backed threats from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene militarily if Bazoum was not reinstated and rejected demands for the French ambassador to leave Niger.
France has about 1,500 troops in Niger, and Macron said the military withdrawal would happen gradually, likely being completed by the end of the year. He said the pullout will be done in cooperation with the junta “because we want it to take place peacefully.”
The US has about 1,100 troops in Niger, and there’s no sign yet that the Americans have been asked to leave. US military officials have said they’re considering relocating a major drone base that’s in Niger to another country, but there have been indications that the US is willing to cooperate with the Niger junta to maintain its military presence.