US Troops in Niger

Someone in a comment thread asked some questions about why there were any US troops in Niger in the first place, and what the general situation is. Here are my answers, posted here for curious minds:

Q: Exactly what the fuck are we doing in Niger?

A: Niger itself is fairly stable, at least in terms of terrorism. The population is pretty chill about religion, different religious groups get along, and beer is available pretty much ever. The area has a long history of Sufism, which is kind of like Islam for hippies. Niger has a long history of multi-party democracy with free and fair elections, but also a long history of military coups. There was also one jerk who tried to become president for life, but he got kicked out by the military. The country is currently a democracy.

Even though it doesn't have much of a problem with Islamists itself, Niger borders Libya, Mali, and Nigeria, all of which have ongoing insurgencies, and the Nigerien desert is often used by those groups to move supplies around. The US presence in Niger is basically doing the same thing, building support infrastructure for operations in other countries.

Q: What are our goals in Niger?

A: We have one base and are building a second. Both bases are used for support operations in places like Mali. We're also helping the Nigerien military crack down on militants passing through on their way to more interesting places.

Q: By what metric will we judge our involvement in Niger a success or failure? And, finally, What, if any, is our time-line for keeping troops in Niger?

A: It's not a combat mission, so those questions aren't really applicable. Our military involvement with Niger is more like our involvement with Germany than with Afghanistan. We'll probably keep the bases until the global geopolitical situation changes and we decide the resources are better used elsewhere.

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