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The Biden administration is engaged in high-risk talks to persuade Niger to allow 1,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel to operate a $110 million counterterrorism drone base in the West African country.

This comes amid reports that US military influence is being replaced by Russia and worrying claims that Iran is trying to buy uranium from Nigerian mines.

Since the overthrow of the Nigerian government in a military coup last July, the Reaper drones based at Airport 201 have not flown any missions against Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorists in the region.

Analysts fear that a US withdrawal from Niger could lead to jihadist forces advancing through West Africa and further expanding Russian influence in Africa.

Russia and the USA are struggling for support across Africa

Niger, Russia, China

Supporters of the National Council for the Protection of the Homeland in Niger hold a Russian and a Chinese flag as they gather at the Place de la Concertation in Niamey on August 20, 2023. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

“What we are seeing in Niger is just one of many examples of the curtain closing on American and Western influence on the African continent,” Jasmine Opperman told Fox News Digital. Opperman, an Africa-based security consultant who specializes in extremism, continued: “We can see this in Central Africa. We see it in southern Africa, and with that Russia will take every opportunity to expand its influence.”

The Biden administration was made aware of this stark warning by multiple sources, including Marine Corps Gen. Michael E. Langley, commander of U.S. Africa Command. In an address to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7, Langley warned: “The Russian Federation narrative has drowned out U.S. governments in recent years. Russia’s destabilizing activity in Africa consists of exchanging security assistance for access to African natural resources. Putin does this by spreading disinformation and propaganda to sow unrest, prop up sympathetic regimes and undermine support for Western engagement on the continent.”

Langley continued: “We must not lose sight of the ongoing threat that al-Qaeda and ISIS pose in Africa. Political instability and weak security institutions have allowed these groups to expand territorial control. We must have sufficient troop strength and resources in Africa to support our national interests.” There.”

Niger's Prime Minister

Nigerian Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine speaks during a news conference in Niamey on September 4, 2023. Niger’s military-appointed prime minister said on September 4, 2023 he sees hopes for an agreement with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which threatened after a coup in July to use force to restore civilian rule. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Cameron Hudson pointed out that the administration believes it has to work with an undemocratic government in Niger to keep the jihadists, as well as Russia and Iran, in check. “The real blow is to U.S. standing in the region,” Hudson, director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, told Fox News Digital. “This sends a clear message that countries have options and no longer have to put up with lectures or lobbying from the US.”

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Hudson, who is now a senior fellow in the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, added: “In order to maintain its importance and presence in Niger and neighboring countries, Washington has shown a willingness to sacrifice its democratic values.” by promising to cooperate with these coup governments. But even that obviously wasn’t enough.”

This weekend, Niger announced “the end of the Status of Forces Agreement between Niger and the United States,” according to the Defense Department. Col. Major Amadou Abdramane, the spokesman for the military junta, the so-called National Council for the Protection of the Homeland, complained on local television about the U.S.’s “condescending attitude,” saying that a U.S. delegation that met junta officials in Niger did so last week “intended to deny the sovereign Nigerian people the right to choose their partners and types of partnerships that could truly help them fight terrorism.”

Raisi and Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. (Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via REUTERS)

This junta narrative was picked up by Nigerian columnist Abdoulaye Sissoko. Sissoko wrote for the website ActuNiger: “There is no public evidence that American bases in Niger have proven useful.” One reader of the site commented: “Thanks for sending away those white beaks.” Another wrote: ” You should pack up and go home.”

Sources said last week’s meeting with the junta was extremely difficult. Government envoys did not have the opportunity to meet with Niger’s top decision-maker.

“The US delegation met with a CNSP (Nigeria) delegation led by the prime minister and several cabinet ministers, as well as technical experts and advisers,” Defense Department deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said on Monday.

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President Biden

President Biden delivers keynote speeches at a U.S.-Africa business forum at the 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, December 14, 2022. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Pentagon officials said delegation members made their positions clear. “We are concerned about the path that Niger has taken,” said Defense Ministry’s Singh. U.S. officials expressed concern about Niger’s possible ties with Russia and Iran.”

“These were direct and open discussions.” Analysts say these are diplomatic words to describe a heated and tense conversation. One cynic said it meant “they were yelling at each other.”

State Department principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel agreed on Monday that the meeting was “candid”.

But now the USA is trying to keep its troops in the country. Patel said: “We continue to engage through our message. We still have our ambassador and our embassy team there and we continue to discuss with them.”

It might be too late. Sources say there are at least discussions underway between Niger and the Kremlin about allowing their troops and/or mercenaries to flow into the country, with at least one report saying an agreement has already been signed.

Perhaps more worrying globally is the fact that Iran is reportedly negotiating to purchase uranium from Niger’s mines. Analysts say this could contribute to the development of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program and pose a further threat to peace in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (l.) meets with Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) meets with former Nigerian President Mohamed Bazoum in Niamey, Niger, March 16, 2023. Niamey was overthrown in a coup last year. (Photo by Presidency of Niger / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Just in January of this year, Nigerian Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine was received by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. He said that Niger has “a bright future”. Zeine led negotiations with the administration team last week.

However, it is difficult to get open confirmation of Russia and Iran’s machinations, says Hudson. “The agreements with Russia and Iran in Niger remain opaque. Russia tends to invade these countries to provide security assistance against terrorist forces and regime security for those in power. This often leads to business partnerships and investments, particularly in the mining sector.”

“It is not clear whether a deal has even been reached with Iran,” Hudson added. “But we know that Niger is seeking to diversify its mining partnerships away from France and the West, and Iran sees new opportunities to break its international isolation by forging new relationships with African countries.”

According to Hudson, everything is going according to plan for the Kremlin. “Russia’s interests in the region are diverse and mutually reinforcing. In Africa, Russia is breaking its international isolation, cultivating diplomatic partners to support it at the United Nations, creating new sources of revenue in difficult environments while displacing and undermining Western investment. interests and values.

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“The Biden administration’s challenge is that it wants to have its cake and eat it too. It publicly tells African countries that they are free to choose their partners, and then the US privately urges them to reconsider their choices. It is this hypocrisy that has left us out in the cold in Niger,” he said.

Security analyst Opperman told Fox News Digital she is concerned: “Africa will accept the support it receives from Russia, Iran and China. Unless the United States and the West quickly find a more acceptable way to exert influence on the African continent, I fear what we are seeing in Niger is just the beginning of the curtain closing.”

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