Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, made the announcement on Thursday while he was in Niger. He was there to strengthen ties with a country that has so far avoided the military coups and Russian mercenaries that have been shaking up its neighbors. So far, Niger has been spared from the military coups and Russian mercenaries that have been happening in its neighbors.
The journey by Blinken comes at a time when both Mali and Burkina Faso are becoming increasingly unstable. Since the year 2020, both countries have experienced two military coups each. In response to the unrelenting violence caused by Islamic extremists, both of these neighboring countries have expelled French soldiers from their territory and enlisted the assistance of the Russian military.
On Thursday, Blinken referred to Niger as “a model of resilience, a model of democracy, and a model of cooperation” in the region. He also warned that having more Russian mercenaries in the area wouldn’t be good for the countries that let them in. “It’s not just that we know this is going to end badly—we’ve already seen it,” he said, adding that the shadowy Russian organization has not provided “an effective response to insecurity” in the other places where it has operated in the past.
“At the same time, we’ve seen countries become weaker, poorer, less secure, and less independent because of their ties to Wagner,” Blinken said at a news conference he held with Hassoumi Massoudou, Niger’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was speaking in reference to the Wagner Group, which is a paramilitary organization based in Russia. Therefore, I do not believe that anyone should turn to this as a model for how to achieve success. “But yes, it is incumbent upon us to demonstrate that we can actually deliver results through this much more comprehensive approach to insecurity,” Blinken said.
Islamic fundamentalists have made a lot of progress in the last ten years in spreading their power throughout the Sahel, which is the area of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert. The region where Niger’s porous boundaries meet those of Mali and Burkina Faso has been the site of some of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history. Mali and Burkina Faso are becoming less friendly with France, and Niger has become an important international partner in the area. This development took place in Niger. People in those countries have been seen proudly waving Russian banners in the hope of persuading the junta governments to shift their allegiance away from the former colonial power France and toward Moscow.
After almost a decade of trying to help the Malian military fight against Islamic extremists, France decided to move its soldiers from Mali to Niger because of its poor relationship with Mali’s former junta leader, who is now the country’s president. People think that there are about 1,000 Wagner mercenaries working in Mali, and over the past year, they have been accused of breaking people’s rights.
Burkina Faso has denied that they are recruiting Wagner soldiers, but they have said that once they have bought military equipment from Moscow, Russian instructors will be in charge of military training. After spending two days in Ethiopia, Blinken then continued on to Niger. While in Ethiopia, he made the statement that Ethiopia needs to make additional progress in establishing a peace agreement with its northern Tigray region before relations with the United States can be normalized.