Because the Russian Wagner mercenary group is becoming more powerful in the Sahel region of Africa, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the US and its Western allies must show that they “can get things done” in the area. Blinken, who was on a historic trip to Niger at the time, said that the US government has a “comprehensive” strategy that focuses not only on security but also on “good governance, development, creating opportunities, and being responsive to people’s needs.”
“I think that is exactly the difference maker,” Blinken said during a joint press appearance with the Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, drawing a contrast with what the Wagner Group could offer the region. “Blinken stated that the group’s interventions “have already seen it end badly in a number of places,” referring to the outcomes. “Whenever Wagner has been in the area, there has been no way to avoid unfortunate events.”
This journey will go down in history as the first time a secretary of state from the United States has visited the country. According to information from the U.S. Department of State, Blinken met with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum earlier in the day and talked about a number of plans for the region. One of these initiatives was the addition of $150 million in new humanitarian assistance for the Sahel, bringing the total to $233 million for the fiscal year.
The visit by Blinken to Niger comes on the heels of his trip earlier this week to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and is part of a larger commitment by the administration of US President Joe Biden to better interact with the African continent. Aside from that, it comes at a time when many people are disappointed with Europe’s involvement in the region. This disillusionment has been stoked in part by a series of military coups that have taken place in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.
When asked about this disappointment on Thursday, Blinken said, “It is up to us to show that this much broader approach to security can actually work.” France initially intervened in Mali in 2012 in response to a rebel movement that was taking place in the northern part of the country. In 2022, French troops and a European Union force headed by France withdrew from the country. In the month of February, French soldiers were also pulled out of Burkina Faso.
Mali’s government has become more and more dependent on the Russian Wagner Group as it has worked to stop the killing in the country’s vast central region, which borders both Niger and Burkina Faso.