The July military coup in the west African country of Niger has once again brought attention to the fact that the US government runs a global military empire that serves Washington’s special interests, and not the national interest.
Before the coup made news headlines, most Americans – including many serving in Congress – had no idea the US government maintains more than 1,000 troops stationed on several US bases in Niger. But it’s even worse than that. A recent report in The Intercept suggests the Pentagon repeatedly misled Congress about the extent and the cost of the US presence in Niger.
According to The Intercept, “in testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in March, the chief of US Africa Command described Air Base 201 (in Niger) as ‘minimal’ and ‘low cost.’” In fact the US government has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on the base since construction began in 2016.
So when did Congress declare war so as to legalize US military operations in Niger? They didn’t. But as Kelley Vlahos writes in Responsible Statecraft, US troops have been “training” the military in Niger since 2013 and the US government has constructed a number of military bases to “fight terrorism” in the country and region.
Does that mean that the Pentagon is operating in Niger under the 2001 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) meant to track down those who attacked the US on 9/11? It’s a good question and thankfully one being asked by Sen. Rand Paul in a recent letter sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Senator Paul first pointed out in the letter, “the Administration’s limitless interpretation of the 9/11 AUMF and frequent use of Title 10 authorities results in military operations abroad conducted with little Congressional oversight and even less public scrutiny.” Such actions “undermine our Constitution,” he writes as he asks, “in how many countries are US forces conducting operations authorized by the 2001 AUMF.”
Ironically – or maybe not – one of the coup leaders in NIger had been trained by the Pentagon at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. What is the US government training foreign military officers to do, exactly? Overthrow their own governments?
Whatever the case, it appears the coup government in Niger may be seeking a withdrawal of foreign military on its soil. Mass protests against French military presence has led the French government to begin talks with the coup government on withdrawal. There are rumors that the coup government may next request US troops to leave the country.
We should pre-empt their possible request by withdrawing all US troops immediately from Niger (and the rest of Africa) and closing all military bases. The claim that the US government is fighting terrorism in the area is doubtful. After all, in both Libya and in Syria the US government backed terrorist groups against governments it sought to overthrow. President Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan famously wrote to his then-boss Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012 that, “in Syria, al-Qaeda is on our side.”
Congress must step up and exercise its oversight authority to end the counter-productive US military presence in Africa. Our military empire is bankrupting us and turning the rest of the world against us.
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