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US troops in standoff in African nations as Cold War-like tensions take hold on continent

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May 10, 2024

FIRST ON FOX – U.S. troops in the West African country of Chad are ‘accounted for’ after multiple reports of gunfire and five alleged deaths, Fox News Digital has learned.  Various videos have been posted on social media which show rifles and even what appears to be truck-mounted heavy weapons being fired indiscriminately at civilians, after results of the country’s Presidential elections earlier this week were announced. 

A Department of Defense source in Africa told Fox News Digital “all U.S. personnel are accounted for” in the country, adding “I don’t think any of the violence is near where they are at.”

Most of the weapons appear to have been fired in celebration, but leading local media source Chad One reported that five people had been killed, reportedly by the local army, in the capital, N’Djamena. In the election, the incumbent interim President Mahamat Deby is claimed to have won 61% of the votes polled.

Up until last month, the U.S. had approximately 100 military personnel operating in Chad. Most, Fox News Digital understands, were Special Forces troops, fighting the threat of Islamist terror in the Sahel region.

CHAD’S MILITARY LEADER WINS DISPUTED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

But last month, Chad’s military junta, leaning toward Russia, told the troops to pack up and go, causing something of a stand-off. After high-level negotiations between Washington and N’Djamena, some – but not all – U.S. troops were pulled out ‘temporarily’ for the country’s elections, but hope to come back.

“We still have U.S. forces on the ground in Chad. Only one group was told by the Chadian government to leave and in their own words, “temporary,” and once the election is over, they will be invited back,” the DOD source told Fox News Digital.

There’s a bigger standoff in nearby Niger. This country’s military junta, again favoring Russia, effectively told 1,000 US military personnel and contractors to leave town in March – but so far they are staying put. 

The U.S. has been operating manned and unmanned flight operations against Jihadist forces in the region from two bases in the country. 

Publicly at least, the U.S. forces are leaving, the DOD source told Fox News Digital this week: “The U.S. troop status in Niger is a full pull out of all U.S. forces. Our negotiations right now are centered on the how and when.” 

“The United States has initiated discussions on an orderly and responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Niger,” a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, adding. “The Deputy Secretary, along with senior leaders at the Department of State, Department of Defense, U.S. Africa Command, the U.S. Embassy in Niger, and others, are engaged in ongoing frank discussions with the authorities in Niger.  We do not want to speculate and get ahead of the discussions.”

To accusations circulating that U.S. personnel in Niger are not being resupplied or getting transport help when needed, the Department of Defense official stated that U.S. troops in Niger are getting assistance, but not so much through official military channels. “Flights have been limited, but personnel have been able to transfer via commercial airlines. To my knowledge, very few if any military flights have come in and out in the last few months,” he told Fox News Digital.

Then there’s the Russians. Reportedly, Wagner mercenaries, the Kremlin’s private army, have been allowed by Niger to take over a hangar and conduct operations on the same Airbase 101, in the capital, Niamey, which houses U.S. forces. 

US TO PULL TROOPS FROM CHAD AND NIGER AS THE AFRICAN NATIONS QUESTION ITS COUNTERTERRORISM ROLE

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin downplayed the importance of, perhaps uniquely, having Russia and the U.S. share the same airbase. “Right now, I don’t see a significant issue here in terms of our force protection,” Austin told reporters in Hawaii last week.

The DOD source told Fox News Digital Thursday, “Russian forces are at a completely different section of the airport compound and do not have access, or are in close proximity, to the U.S. side. We can’t go into details about where each force is on the base, from a force protection point of view.”

RUSSIA AND US JOCKEY FOR SUPPORT ACROSS AFRICA

“Russian military personnel and U.S. forces are in close proximity in Niger, as close as two miles or as far as 500 miles, depending on the specific area,” Strategic Military Intelligence Analyst and Foreign Affairs Consultant for Fox News Digital Rebekah Koffler said, adding, “It is unlikely that Russian forces present a physical threat to U.S. forces. There are deconfliction procedures between the Pentagon and Russia’s General Staff. This process is intended to avoid direct conformation and escalation. But dust-ups can occur unintentionally, especially now that there’s tremendous hostility between Moscow and Washington.”

But Koffler warned, “There’s a big counter-intelligence risk. The Russians are always collecting intelligence on the U.S. military, whether it’s weapons, tactics, command and control, procedures, training manuals, etc.”

The Pentagon’s main man for Africa, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael E. Langley, has said that it is vital to have U.S. troops on the ground in Africa, telling the House Armed Services Committee in March, “Terrorism, poverty, food insecurity, climate change and mass migration shatter African lives.” Gen. Langley, U.S. Africa Command commander, continued, “These factors sow the seeds of violent extremism and Russian exploitation across entire regions of the continent.”

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