Remind Me Why We Have Troops in Niger?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The narrative of how we “lost” four special forces soldiers in Niger — four Nigerian[1] soldiers were killed as well — has rapidly devolved into a culture war skirmish over whether Trump insulted the troops; the more fevered sort of Democrat seems to think they have Trump by the Benghazis. Along with the culture war main comes a side of wonkish, tactical scrutiny: Were the troops ambushed, why weren’t they evacuated more quickly, and so on. There will, of course, be an investigation, in which the FBI has now involved itself. All this conveniently obscures the question of why we have a military presence in Niger to begin with (assuming that there is a reason other than the creation of yet another endless and profitable war). So why do we?

The Scene

First, let me apologize because this piece is a bit sprawling; I’m feeling my way into the topic, as I suspect most readers who don’t simply take what we read i the papers for granted.

Now let’s look at Niger’s geography, economy, and resources. Niger (which is not Nigeria) is the largest country in West Africa. Here is a handy map of Niger from ReliefWeb (PDF for full-sized version):

Translating the map into prose:

  • From East to West, the south of Niger is in the Sahel; the north is in the Sahara; the climate is said to be very hot and very dry.
  • Agadez, a city of 78,000 in the center of the country, is a waystation for migrant and smuggling routes
  • Niamey, the capital, in the far southwest of the country, has been subject to at least one assassination by a (putatively) Al Qaida affiliate
  • The United States has military presence
  • Uranium is found in the North

Since I think we know about the Sahara, a word on the Sahel from the United Nations (2017):

The Sahel region is vulnerable to desertification due to global warming. Additionally, unstable climatic patterns makes sustainable agriculture difficult. Soil erosion and overgrazing have also contributed to the expansion of the Sahara desert conditions into the relatively mild Sahel region. Over-population in the marginal areas result in exerting pressure on the productive areas. Desertification has led to threats of food security to the residents of these areas while endangering the existing animal and plant species. Despite efforts by various international organizations such as UN, the region remains under threat. Dust storms are a common feature in the region.

Expanding on food insecurity from Africa Renewal (2013):

When the Sahel is in the news, it is often because millions of people are at risk of going hungry. A humanitarian crisis usually unfolds on the back of a food crisis. In 2012, the lives of up to 18 million people were put at risk following a major food crisis in the region. This year, more than 11 million are facing the same plight, while 1.4 million children are threatened with severe malnutrition. Even in normal years, millions are in a permanent state of food insecurity. Over the past five decades, persistent droughts have contributed to famine episodes.

(Readers will be reminded by the drought conditions in Syria, where food security may have caused, and certainly intensified, the civil war.)

The CIA World Factbook provides a summary of the Niger Economy:

[Niger’s] economy centers on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world’s largest uranium deposits. Agriculture contributes approximately 25% of GDP and provides livelihood for 87% of the population. The UN ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world in 2016 due to multiple factors such as food insecurity, lack of industry, high population growth, a weak educational sector, and few prospects for work outside of subsistence farming and herding… [A]s of April 2017, there were no US firms operating in Niger.

The word that comes to my mind is “grim,” especially when I imagine overgrazing in the Sahel. And the word that leaps out from the background “uranium.”[1] From Barry Lando at HuffPo:

[Niger] has huge deposits of uranium, and the largest uranium miner is Areva, a sprawling French energy conglomerate, in which the French government has a major interest. Areva’s Arlit mine is in a desolate northern region of Niger and the mission of the [French] Special Forces is to protect it. After all, France depends on nuclear reactors to provide 80 percent of the country’s electrical power.

[T]he Chinese have huge interests of their own in the region — including their $300 million SOMINA uranium mine at the desert outpost of Azalik in northern Niger.

Not to be monocausual…

The Players

Aside from the Nigeriens themselves, the major players seem to be the Jihadists (whatever that means), the United States plus France plus Nigeria, and the Chinese. Let’s take each in turn.

First, the Jihadists (whatever that means). From CNN:

CNN has reported that 50 fighters of the regional ISIS in the Greater Sahara [whoever they are] were responsible for the attack.

The Pentagon has claimed the group emerged in Niger [speaking one of Niger’s eleven official languages, no doubt] because of defeats suffered by ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“We do have information on the group that did it, their nature, their disposition and so on and so forth and appropriate organizations within the United States military are digging deeper into that and will take appropriate action if required,” Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told reporters last week.

Translating Milley: “Nobody knows anything.” That’s not unreasonable; we didn’t know anything in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan either. You can read the Guardian for an important qualification: “[N]o Islamic extremist faction in the Sahel currently has a fixed base, making it very difficult to track the whereabouts and evolution of any individual group.” This too translates to “Nobody knows anything.” Secretary of Defense Mattis says only that the attackers were “new to the area.” Same. As with Syria, I’m inclined to distrust all the reporting on general principle.

Next, the United States — AFRICOM address: Ashstraße, 70567 Stuttgart, Germany — and its mission. From Quartz:

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has 800 military personnel stationed in Niger, running a drone operation, and supporting the government in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts. And as the threat of terrorism looms over the entire Sahel region, Niger has become an indispensable Western ally, closely working with the over 3,500 French troops based in the region

Drones. Great. Let’s hope we don’t whack any more wedding parties. And apparently we also do training. Reuters:

The U.S. military organizes an annual, high-profile U.S. drill as well as longer-term, more discreet training of regional forces. But experts say U.S. involvement in the fight does not stop there.

“It is likely that there are other operations going on aside from just the training operations,” said Andrew Lebovich, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

So, training. And other stuff. Boots to clean, pots to mend. Always a thing going.[3]

Finally, from, the Chinese presence is commercial (very commercial) and not military at all:

China is building a major portfolio in Niger’s resource sectors and will probably replace France as Niger’s top foreign investor when projects under construction are fully operational. Chinese investments include oil and gas production, refining, uranium mining, and infrastructure. On the Nigerien side, the bilateral relationship was [***cough***] managed directly from President Tandja’s office, and there is a striking lack of transparency in the terms of investment agreements, most of which had been negotiated without direct involvement of professional staff from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

There were no examples of US-China collaboration in Niger. There was little scope for US-China collaboration when the comparative advantage of the Chinese was their willingness to ignore international standards of transparency and commercial viability.

Interestingly, there’s no indication the Chinese have been attacked, either.


So far as I can tell, there are only two reasons for us to have a military presence in Niger:

1) To help France hang on to its uranium supply, a vital national interest for them, and

2) The self-licking ice cream of the Global War on Terror, or whatever we’re calling it these days.

Since the political class seems to be lusting for war — whether with Russia or in North Korea — a war in Niger would have much to recommend it, since the only nuclear powers involved would be the United States and France (since its hard to see that China would have vital national interests involved; Niger’s uranium would constitute some fraction of one-third of China’s uranium supply).

If the United States runs true to form (and at this point we have form) a war in Niger would:

0) Never be declared;

1) Last for many years;

2) Not produce a victory (if victory be defined as parades and politicians claiming victory);

3) Be extremely expensive;

4) Cause enormous civilian suffering and many refugees;

5) Destabilize West Africa;

6) Strengthen the mercenary elements of the military-industrial complex;

7) Produce blowback, should adversaries once again focus, as Bin-Laden did, on the “far enemy.” In this regard, it would be interesting to see the social effects if the blowback operatives were Africans, and not from the Middle East, as were Bin Laden’s.

What could go wrong?


[1] “Nigerian” means from or of Nigeria, as opposed to “Nigerien,” which means from or of Niger.

[2] Niger produces 80,000 barrels of oil per day; the Chinese-owned oil refinery produces 20,000 barrels a day for domestic consumption. If Niger is the next Saudi Arabia — reserves discovered by China are said to be one billion barrels; Saudi “proven” reserves are said to be 268 billion — the information is closely held. It doesn’t seem likely that Niger would be a “war for oil,” unlike Iraq.

[3] summary of all the Western players in Central Africa, from the Weekly Standard:

The plethora [nobody knows anything] of salafi-jihadist groups has prompted a massive multinational counterterrorism effort throughout the region, consisting of not only the 4,000 French troops under Barkhane, but also 15,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Mali and numerous EU advisers—to say nothing of the militaries of the “G5 Sahel” nations (Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania) who are set to stage their first joint operation later this month. In addition, of course, are American special operations forces under U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) which have operated in the region with some frequency since 2012. Roughly 800 American soldiers are currently stationed in Niger alone, the majority of them Air Force personnel involved in the construction of a massive drone base in Agadez, as well as about 100 special ops forces under Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara, whose stated mission involves training and advising Nigerien forces in addition to conducting what is referred to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR in Pentagon jargon.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. barrisj

    Anybody who has been following the evolution of JSOC from the Obama years onward surely has seen the “mission” having been expanded to include “targeted assassinations of militants/Islamic terrorists” on a global scale. There even was an admission by the Pentagon/Africom that the group in Niger that came came under attack was “collecting intelligence” (kaff-kaff) on a “identified senior militant commander”, whatever…oh, this in addition to the ubiquitous “training and intelligence-gathering support” that is the catch-all cover for installing kill teams across the planet. Moon of Alabama, Counterpunch, et al, have been on these operations for years, but it seems that the US Senate remains studiously and assiduously ignorant of such covert military actions, and prefers to keep it that way. The Donald certainly spoke the truth when he said his regime would “turn it all over to the generals” in pursuing the ca. 15-yr. “GWOT” and underwritten by Congress’s own AUMF…feh.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      We are the Sheriff of Nottingham riding roughshod not just across England but all 6 continents. In the corner, amusing himself, is our very own King John, a testimony to how Adam Smith is made the fool by Charles Darwin.

      We need a bunch of Robin Hoods, for the people are ready to follow.

    2. KTN

      There is a bit of confusion inherent in this well-meaning analysis.

      Why are these crack soldiers ‘collecting intelligence’ – observing – ‘senior militant commanders’ instead of eliminating them? And why is there any need to maintain extensive physical proximity, in an era of robust signals intelligence capabilities and armed drones? Surely the senior militant leader should have been dead some time ago, rather than a single American soldier, no?

      1. Brian M

        1. There is always another “senior commander” ready to step in. Are we sure this one is the same one that we were originally targeting?

        2. Eliminating a threat means eliminating a reason for the mission means eliminating funding. follow the money.


  2. Bill Smith

    The US pretty much arrived in Niger with a much larger footprint to back up the French intervention (Operation Serval) in Mali in 2012. Niger’s airport was a good location to operate drones over Mali and later all over the Northern Africa.

    Otherwise the Green Beret and the like training in those countries has been going on since the wind down of the Libyan Chad conflict. The end of which was also known as the Toyota War – where the term “technicals” is said to originate.

    I don’t think it has much to do with uranium.

    1. rd

      Remind me why we have troops in Niger?

      Oil, my boy, oil.

      Human rights are only relevant in countries where there are natural resources to be extracted.

      The US does not have a good history following the French in countries with insurgencies of local people. I can think of at least one example that went south in a big way back in the 50s-70s.

      History may not repeat, but it certainly rhymes.

  3. pictboy3

    Another good reason for keeping a military presence in Niger would be to keep uranium supplies from going to terrorist groups or states attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Skepticism for foreign US deployments is well-founded, but there are some pretty legitimate reasons for some of them, and this one seems pretty legitimate to me.

    1. a different chris

      That’s like saying we need to keep iron ore from people so they don’t make skyscrapers. They very like lack everything else you need to make skyscrapers, and if they were able to it wouldn’t be without anybody noticing.

      In any case, at this point the place that already has the most nuclear weapons is arguably the biggest terrorist state. So that ship has sailed.

      1. RBHoughton

        I don’t think so. When GWB was searching for excuses to war on Iraq, his administration asserted Niger was supplying yellowcake to terrorists. That was the story a superior US diplomat named Wilson revealed as false and was severely punished for doing so.

        The country is entirely Muslim. Wikipedia says it gets 70% of its foreign exchange from selling uranium, and as this article says, there are no US businesses operating there, a black hole in American planetary intentions. I think the threat of a dirty bomb could well be the spur to the Pentagon’s interest.

  4. Sid Finster

    Because FREEDOM! Only a dirty commie would question why.


    1. JBird

      Well, this has worked for the past Bloody century, and I’m as freedom loving as any other patriotic, red blooded American, but I’ve noticed that “freedom” is never defined unless it’s all about mammon, free markets, and capitalism.

      1. Anonymized

        Not to derail this exchange but why does “red-blooded” mean strong, vigorous, sexually potent, etc? Everyone has red blood so I don’t get where this definition came from.

        1. Bukko Boomeranger

          It’s to differentiate the vigorous, sexually potent hero-types, who are ready to fight and spill torrents of red blood, from the effete, inbred blue-blood noble-types, with their skin so translucent from lack of hard work and outdoorsy adventurism that you can see their veins right through it. And the blood in those pale, weak veins appears blue because the haemoglobin in it has not been exposed to oxygen. Which it WOULD be, if only the blue-bloods went around getting gushing wounds that would prove their PATRIOTISM, goddamit! /s/

  5. Roland

    The AFRICOM thing happened under GWB because of the GWOT, and the GWOT went Saharan because of the AQIM, and the AQIM got its start because of the radicalized remnants of the defeated Islamist factions in the Algerian Civil War of the 1990’s, and Algerian Civil War happened because the democratically elected FIS got proscribed by the Algerian military establishment.

    The USA is openly deployed in Niger because France and NATO were involved in Mali, and they were fighting in Mali, because the fall of the government in Libya led to an influx of arms and radical militants, and they were in Libya because…

    For the rulers of the USA, it is all about being the Indispensable Empire. For the radicals, it’s an epic cycle of heroic tales. For everybody else, it’s one damned thing after another.

    The map shows areas of Touareg population. There have been occasional Touareg rebellions in the northern part of Niger, as also in Mali. In the past, the Libyan gov’t under Qadafi gave some support to the Touareg.

    A long time ago, in 1991, I hitch-hiked across the Sahara. I’ll always remember one strange encounter I had in a bank lineup in Tamanrasset, Algeria, when a man introduced himself and gave me a French-language edition of Qadafi’s Green Book! Later on, I came to understand that a large number of Touareg refugees were living in a bidonville outside Tamanrasset.

    I also saw the mine which was the fabled source of Saddam’s “yellowcake.” In 1991 the world uranium market was depressed, so the mine was not operating. Conditions in the nearby town of Arlit were desperate. One had to hire a small phalanx of local children to serve as retainers, just to be able to go from one place to another. While anything loose or left unattended would be immediately stolen, nevertheless there was no threat to one’s person.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Final paragraph from Ryan Cooper’s “America’s Appalling Inattention to War” article in today’s links:

    There is zero chance that this Republican government is going to start beefing up humanitarian aid, much less provide a Marshall Plan-style diplomatic and economic rebuilding package to get the region back on its feet.

    Instead, it’s going to be the same old whack-a-mole until either America finally gets a clue, or the capacity of the American state to wage global conflict is finally drained completely.


    Even an ostensible opponent of “whack-a-mole” still subscribes to the notion of America as global cop, ordained by the deity to micromanage events from the deserts of Africa to the mountains of Persia. Niormal countries — even neighbors such as Canada and Mexico — suffer under no such megalomaniacal delusions.

    Cooper is still waving the tattered old D vs R bloody shirt, as if Obama’s eight years didn’t offer perfect continuity and even expansion of Bush’s policies. There is only one War Party, as the House votes nearly unanimously today for fresh Iranian sanctions.

    A case can be made that US war crimes should oblige it to pay reparations to countries it destroyed such as Iraq, Syria and Libya (as well as send Cheney, Bush and Obama to The Hague to face capital trials). But that does not mean a “Marshall Plan style rebuilding package” is our responsibility.

    Where Cooper gets it right is that America’s shambolic, negative rate of return global empire is eventually going to sap its standard of living until it resembles the final days of the USSR, with muscle-bound military might contrasting harshly with shabby infrastructure and a brainwashed, impoverished population unable to identify its tormentors.

    1. a different chris

      Yes. But note the white-centric view of the article. The French were properly castigated for making the trees go away, but the repair “had originated with Tony Rinaudo, an Australian”. I suspect if the pale people had just left it would have also happened.

      And if they never arrived at all…

      Also every population must forever continue exponential growth and we need to “figure out how to deal with it”. How about figuring out how not to have it? And I am suspicious of straight-line, let alone exponential extrapolations of points that scans an order of magnitude of time greater than the points themselves were gathered in.*

      *If you understandably hate math, what I’m saying is “don’t tell me what it will be like 100years from now based on the last 10 years of data”

      Unfortunately I truly believe in Global Warming but that very stick is used against me in that arena. Oh well.

  7. Louis Fyne

    “high population growth” is an understatement.

    The average woman has an average of 6-7 children. And the population of Niger has increased 5-15x within your lifetime (depending how old you are). because religion (in this case Islam) and lecturing the developing world about population growth is politically incorrect.

    Get used to learning the difference between Nigerian and Nigerien—-the US has adopted a new ward. Thanks France, Africom, Team D and Team R.

      1. Brian M

        Well, in a country with no real economy, desertifying landscapes, and abject poverty, there are probably too many people. And, there are far too many Americans and Europeans, for sure, but that does not mean rapid population growth in a place like Niger which cannot support existing population levels is a good thing.

  8. JTMcPhee

    “We” are there, seems to me, because it’s all part of the Grand Doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance of the Great Global Network-Centric Inter-operable Battlespace, which is everything, everywhere, from the center of the earth to the farthest stars. All neatly subdivided into some 9 (nine) “commands,” of which AFRICOM is one and CENTCOM, where all those very special ops are run from. “We” are there because as in any ecology, there are niches where energy is available and something will “infill” (a nice Pentagram term too.) “We” are there because the Imperial thing is like a cancer, it will spread and convert and eat resources until it kills the host…

    Here’s one little Power(emphasis on “power”)Point that gives a nice visual and outline notion of the forces and players at work in this “great game”: “Joint Battlespace Management Command and Control: An Industry Perspective, presented at “Precision Strike Summer PEO Forum at Huntsville, Alabama, 8 July 2004” . All the fundamental concepts about global interoperability, which means Imperial force projection structures “interlocking” into eventual control of all those local and national military and police “assets,” the “global reach” stuff, all the bits and pieces of a military-owned and operated global hegemony, ‘interfaced’ of course with the expected commercial interests. This PP is dated 2004, so the Imperial Military Blob has had another decade and a half to expand along the “meridians” identified in this Milbabble sales pitch, that of course touches all the important Pentagrammaton hot buttons, from Lockheed “We Never Forget Who We Are Working For” Martin,

    And I’ve linked before to a study and strategy document written by the egoists of the “Defense Science Board,” ten or fifteen very special “experts” who are lining up and helping to drive “doctrine” and “strategy” for the whole Imperial military. It’s titled “Trends And Implications Of Climate Change For National And International Security,” found at In addition to a now slightly dated review of the science showing just how sick the biosphere is and how fast it is getting sicker, there are yuuuge recommendations on how the US imperial military can and ought to be taking charge of the entire planet’s resources, to ‘address” the horrors and dislocations of climate change. Including by being present everywhere, and creating that “interoperability” that is not just “our network and sensors and weapons will talk to yours,” but “our imperial structures and tech will be the Boss.” With lots of interspersed comments and footnotes showing how “US” supranational industries and business entities can join in and profit from the looting “opportunities” to assist in the re-making of the demolished infrastructures and the human needs for places to live and stuff to eat and water to drink and all that. So lots of opportunities are noted for “US” engineering and construction firms, manufacturers of heavy earthmoving and similar equipment, of course weapons and “integrative systems technology” (guess whose ‘architecture’ will rule?).

    As to stuff on the ground in Africa, remember what went on in Angola, where the CIA was “supporting” Jonas Savimbi and his terrorist insurgent murderous UNITA group, which was then attacking “US” mining interest properties in Angola. To the point that other parts of the US Blob, and the Evil Soviets, brought in Cuban troops, the Commie barstids, to DEFEND those same capitalist inroad “holdings” against the CIA’s pet “insurgents” in whatever game of destabilization and Spookiness the Boys (and Girls) of Langley were up to back then.

    Look, this stuff is just huge, and mostly invisible, and has such momentum and is backed by such massive incentives that one has to indulge just a little sense of futility and despair at any notion that it can all be derailed. Just think of the small scale: these Spec Ops people go to Far Samarkand, bribe some locals to be their friends, pass out some weapons and cash and maybe as in Notagainistan, some Viagra to the local warlords, some “Troops” might even develop personal friendships with some of the local troops and militia members and national police (security) forces — get all aligned on working the ‘interoperability’ and ‘interdependence’ angles. And the Brass in their chain of command both encourage and work to leverage those contacts, with lots of opportunities for corruption and abuse. The ‘business class’ NGOs are right in there, along with the other characters and institutions that figure in all those action novels by Clancy and Brown and the rest. No goal but dominance and profit, lip service to ‘democratization’ which clearly means altogether something other than ‘letting the mopes have a voice in how they are looted, ruled, subjugated and killed.’

    What are ‘we” doing in Niger? Really an interesting question…

    1. Jim Haygood

      Tragedy repeats as farce:

      JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was evacuated from a U.N. camp for displaced people in South Sudan on Wednesday because of a demonstration against President Salva Kiir, witnesses said.

      Shortly after Haley left the camp, U.N. security guards fired tear gas to disperse the crowd of more than 100 residents who looted and destroyed the office of a charity operating there, an aid worker at the camp said.

      The United Nations confirmed the incident with Haley, saying camp residents “became upset that she was not able to meet with them, due to time constraint.”

      As a critic famously snarked, Haley’s overseas experience was limited to eating at the International House of Pancakes. Now she’s an old Africa hand. /sarc

    2. Bobby Gladd

      “We” are there, seems to me, because it’s all part of the Grand Doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance of the Great Global Network-Centric Inter-operable Battlespace, which is everything, everywhere…”

      Senator Tom Cotton was utterly clear in his inaugural Senate speech (3/16/15), i.e., that the core reason we need a healthy economy is to provide the taxes via which to fund a military SO overwhelmingly dominant that no adversary would ever dare challenge us. 4% of world population proposes to dominant the other 96% in perpetuity.

      I’m thinking we’re drawing ever closer to finding out just how little we’re getting for spending more on our military than the next 9 top-spending nations combined.

    3. Chris

      thank you JTM, you consistently give us some great insights into the FUBAR that is the US MIC.

      Why indeed? Corruption pulls in all sorts of shady types

  9. EoH

    China’s “national interests” in Niger would seem to be more important to them than as yet unidentified American national interests. The French, as a colonial and post-colonial power, have been there forever, presumably to the chagrin of Nigeriens, who have no practical control over their principal resources, much as the Congolese have little control over their excruciatingly desirable resources. The US would seem to be attempting to supplant as much as support the French, who might react to that as well as would de Gaulle.

    The US would appear to be interlopers, looking for a reason to be there, Uranium and supposed anti-proliferation interests would be tops on any list. So, too, would the US be looking for drone bases. “Covering the globe” – with apologies to any paint company that uses a similar concept – would seem to be as constant a theme for the Pentagon as “collect it all” is for the NSA.

    Anti-terrorism is always on the list. No one seems to bother with the chicken and egg problem of whether we’re fighting it or bringing it with us wherever we go. I also noticed that in press photos Nigerien troops are training with weapons more sophisticated than the venerable, low-cost AK-47. Weapons sales, service and supplies, and training should then be among the usual suspects. And there’s always the Pentagon’s version of the Everest Excuse: because it’s there.

    1. EoH

      An apparent trial balloon as to the cause of the deaths of 4 Nigerien and 4 American soldiers is that the local village “betrayed” the Americans. That makes us a victim, but apart from convenient framing, doesn’t explain anything. It may also come as a surprise to the local citizenry that they owed uniformed American military personnel a duty of loyalty. Why the locals might not be behind “their own” troops is a question that does need answering, as does our apparent ignorance concerning it.

      Nor does that framing explain how roughly 40 US and Nigerien soldiers (including a dozen Green Berets) were attacked by roughly 50 opponents, leading to the deaths of 20% of the patrol and wounding of more. That ratio needs explaining, as does the wait time for back-up.

  10. Synoia

    Niger is pronounced with a soft “g”, and a grave accent on the “e,”

    Nigeria is pronounced in English with a short or hard “g”.

    In spoken language the difference is obvious.

    I’ve lived in one and flow over the other, in violent turbulence; where tomato juice stayed where is was in space until it landed on the ceiling of the plane, to my great applause, and instant hatred of the other (grown up) passengers on the plane.

  11. Thuto

    I write this from Mahikeng, my hometown, a small town in South Africa about 45 minutes by road from the border with Botswana. A highly placed, credible and very reliable source in Botswana tells me the US has a top secret base there, meaning if the CIA were to identify me as a highly strategic target for elimination and a drone deployed from there, i’d be pulverized within the hour. Now Southern Africa is not known for high levels of terrorist activity, why does the US need a base in Botswana (De Beers, as “one of the boys” of global capital, has the diamonds pretty much sewn up and is profiting handsomely with no risk of a local uprising or attack from neighbouring states)?? Perhaps it has to do with that stated aim by the Empire of “being able to strike any target anywhere in the world within an hour”.

    1. Huey Long

      A highly placed, credible and very reliable source in Botswana tells me the US has a top secret base there

      My money is on Botswana’s Thebephatswa Airbase as the black site your source is referring too:

      It’s centrally located in the middle of southern Africa and would give the US drone coverage of the entire southern tip of the continent from The Cape to the Zambezi.

      Old man Mugabi will be kicking the bucket any year now which may lead to some sort of civil war in Zimbabwe that could be made to spill over into southern Mozambique or the copper region of Zambia by US intelligence operatives, take your pick. Trouble in either region could trigger a “humanitarian intervention” by the US government and expand the imperial footprint in Africa, making this base extremely valuable.

      ALSO, the base may not be CIA but in fact DIA. Their armed forces are largely a product of US training and are US equipped with deep ties to the US defense establishment.

  12. VietnamVet

    A privatized military like America’s does not win wars. Mercenaries do not lose wars. Their wars go on forever until their pay stops. Then they loot and rape what is left.

  13. Chauncey Gardiner

    I think comedian Lee Camp touched on two further possible reasons why the US military is in Niger in his comments today on twitter:

    1.) So, is anyone gonna talk about the casual military coup; or are we still calling it “The adults in the room”?

    2.) China trading with Africa threatens US hegemony.

    An NC reader (wish I could recall who) also recently commented that it is useful to look at US geopolitical actions through the prism of maintaining the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

    Or perhaps it’s someone inside the Beltway simply looking at a map of Africa and thinking “Location, Location, Location!…” for some baffling reason.

    Still, none of these seem to adequately answer the question, even in sum. Perhaps Nikki is not the only one in DC whose international experience consists of dining at the International House of Pancakes, as Jim Haygood so insightfully and humorously observed above, and the decision is simply representative of another stupid, costly and ultimately tragic policy error. After all, as Robert Hanlon famously said, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

  14. Disturbed Voter

    Human affairs are driven by fear and greed. We may fear what others may gain there, and feel greed about what we may gain there. That is sufficient motivation. Polite theories about proper international relations have nothing to do with anything, even relations between super-powers. This is what motivated the Roman Republic, and the US is based on that model. WW I and WW II being our equivalent of the Punic Wars. The degree to which modern affairs are driven by ancient models, including Plato’s Republic, shouldn’t be minimized.

  15. Scott

    If all that makes the US Dollar a reserve currency for a nation with sovereign wealth is its military, the competition gets smarter about it and many will work end the reign of the US Dollar.
    As Mearsheimer says, Everyone is willing to let the US do the bloodletting. Mearsheimer keeps saying that with No Government of Governments for a threatened nation to call all nations require their own nukes.
    Our US fear of even the terrorist dirty bomb with a bunch of uranium essentially there for the digging would make Mr. Houghton or R. Houghton more correct than Mr. Bill Smith in these comments.

  16. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Fun Fact:

    Some people from my unit got sent to Niger I think a few years back, and I remember thinking how strange they didn’t say Djibouti which is where the Army mainly sent us

  17. Michael C

    If I remember my facts correctly, we have some type of military installment in 48 of the 55 nations in Africa, so the question should be why do we have bases in 48 countries in Africa?

    1. Tyronius

      Because we haven’t strong armed the other seven, of course. (Yet)

      Veni Vidi Vici- and we’ll make up whatever reasons we need to justify it afterwards.

      Why do I get the unsettling feeling this will not end well?

  18. ewmayer

    The Benghazi invocation is a particularly inane piece of gaslighting by the Dems. The deadly raid on the US embassy annex there exposed a covert and massive gun-running operation by the CIA via said facility, weapons from “we came, we saw, he died, ha ha” Gaddafi’s former arsenal in Libya to those oh-so-moderate rebels in Syria. (Said smuggling op curiously went unmentioned by pols of either party during the Capitol Hill Kabuki theater that followed.) Now, given that the CIA was using an official US diplomatic facility, one and only of the following statements must be true about the then-Secretary-of-State and soon-to-be Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Evah’s possible role in this:

    1. Hillary knew about the operation and thus was involved in a cover-up of Iran-Contra proportions;

    2. Hillary was unaware of the operation, despite being the frickin’ bloody Secretary of State, which would beg the question as to how the CIA officials in charge of the operation remained unprosecuted in the wake of its being exposed.

    I leave it to the reader to decide which of the two possibilities is the more damning, but someone please tell me, how is the above in any way comparable to the Niger incident and the MSM hysteria over Trump-being-Trump over that?

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