U.S. Troops Will Stay in Niger and You'll Forget About It Again Soon Enough

U.S. fatalities bring America's misadventures overseas into the public eye, but only briefly.


U.S. Army Africa

Three U.S. troops killed in Niger became the first American casualties of a campaign launched by President Barack Obama in 2013 to assist French forces in rooting out Islamists in Mali.

"What," a probably small number of Americans are asking today, "are U.S. troops doing in Niger?"

Well, it's not quite simple. When the U.S. moved into Libya and took out Col. Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, it led to a stream of fighters and weapons from the Libyan regime spreading through the region as far as Nigeria and Syria.

In 2012, Tuareg rebels once in the employ of Qaddafi overthrew a democratic government in Mali the U.S. once pointed to as "one of the most enlightened democracies in Africa." The French, once Mali's colonial masters, soon followed. In 2013, they declared victory but promised to keep troops in the country as long as necessary.

This spread of fighters and weapons empowered Islamists in the region, feeding a resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. Libya, North Africa, West Africa, and even the U.S., will be dealing with the consequences of the 2011 intervention for a long time.

While not at all simple, these "unintended consequences" were totally predictable. What ought to be simple is for U.S. foreign policy makers to accept that military intervention and regime change creates chaotic conditions in which extremism thrives. Libya and Iraq are just two recent examples.

Nevertheless, the U.S. insists it will continue joint counterterrorism operations with the Niger military.

The U.S. has been expanding its military footprint in Africa, especially in West Africa. In 2014 the U.S. deployed a "special security team" to Nigeria to help in the search for 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Only a couple of dozen of the girls were rescued. The U.S. is also building a drone base in a volatile region in Niger, and it runs numerous military intelligence operations across Africa.

The Obama administration was tight-lipped on U.S. activities in Africa, and most U.S. media and voters showed little interest in the evolving theater in the war on terror.

President Trump, for his part, has made it clear he'd rather defer decision-making to the military and explicitly rejected the idea of transparency in U.S. military action, claiming it only helps the enemy.

U.S. fatalities might be the only time American military misadventure in Africa gets any attention. Members of Congress interested in curbing the executive branch's war powers (like those trying to force a vote on U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen) ought not forget the importance of asserting their role in warmaking when it comes to U.S. involvement in Africa.

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  1. When the U.S. moved into Libya and took out Col. Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, it led to a stream of fighters and weapons from the Libyan regime spreading through the ras far as Nigeria and Syria.
    Unintended consequences?

    What does “ras” mean again? I guess we’re not the only ones without an edit button.

  2. While not at all simple, these “unintended consequences” were totally predictable.

    Consequences which are predictable are not “unintended”. Something something Iron Law.

    1. I would say there is a big difference between predictable unintended consequences and predictable intended consequences.

      I don’t think Obama and his cronies expected Libya to turn out how it did nor that fighters would flee to other areas to make trouble. It was predictable that poor planning and execution of attacking Libya would cause unintended consequences that hurt US interests.

      The predictable intended consequence of attacking Libya was Gaddafi would be gone. Pretty much everything else that happened was predictably unintended consequences.

    2. More destabilized countries, more places for us to further fuck with.

      Win, win – right?

  3. Good Lord. American soldiers in Niger? Sheesh.

    1. I’m pretty sure the list of countries we don’t have troops in is shorter than the list of countries we do have them in.

      1. Japan: 40K
        Germany: 34K
        South Korea: 23K
        Italy: 12K
        Afghanistan: 10K
        UK: 8K
        Kuwait: 7K
        Iraq: 6K
        Spain: 3K
        Jordan, Djibouti: 2K
        Austria, Turkey, Syria, Qatar: 1K
        Belgium, UAE: 900
        Cuba: 800
        El Salvador: 500
        Honduras, Netherlands, Romania, Greece, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia: 400
        Norway, Thailand, Egypt: 300
        Greenland, Hungary, Portugal, Australia, Singapore: 200
        Canada, Poland, Libya, Pakistan, Kenya, Somalia: 100

        No mention of Niger on Wikipedia.

        1. SOCOM doesn’t usually advertise their presence.

      2. Kind of like how a list of the years that America hasn’t been at war is actually shorter than the years we have been at war. I guess it’s a side effect of the way the United States went about pursuing a standing army, something that I might remind people wasn’t intended by the framers of our government.

  4. Cleaning out the swamp necessarily means opposition to any war making in Africa. It also means closing all military installations in Africa. It further means no more aid to any African nation.

    1. Yup and most other bases and aid around the World.

    2. Why on earth do we even have a ‘thing’ called AFRICOM? That must be the most useless bureaucracy in all of our MIC.

    3. I believe it’s bad for us and bad for them. Nothing to do but kill it. People complain so much about the effects of colonialism when in many ways what we do now is still immense insertion into their affairs.

  5. God bless America’s heroes on the front lines protecting us from, uh…

  6. This is all Obama’s fault, and I am sure President Trump will pull the U.S. military out of not only Africa.

    1. If only comrade Trump knew what was going on!

    2. “The great country of Africa! My sons like to kill things there, can you believe it?”

    3. I thought you think Trump is a moron. So how could he possibly have know troops were in Africa? Morons don’t know anything and are not responsible for their actions.

  7. Another Victory for Africa Command!!!! (Africa Corps was already taken) Though they did put the headquarters in Stuttgart.

    Africa Command was thought up by Rumsfeld that great military leader. So now we have thousands of troops and at least 10 generals ready for the battle of Niger!!!!!

  8. “President Trump, for his part, has made it clear he’d rather defer decision-making to the military and explicitly rejected the idea of transparency in U.S. military action, claiming it only helped the enemy.”

    Niger please.


      1. African American please!

  9. I already forget when it was that Congress voted to authorize sending troops to Niger.

    1. We are WAY past declaring war.

    2. When they authorized our version of the French foreign legion, aka SOCOM. [autocorrect wanted to turn that into SOCON, which wouldn’t have been too wrong]

      1. I’d say that neocons have elaborate theories about why foreign meddling is an awesome idea. SoCons are all over the map, but if they support foreign meddling, it’s generally because they bought the neocon line that the opponents of such meddling are “anti-American.”

    3. Obama cleverly chose the nation whose name that white congressmen were uncertain if it was appropriate to say, so the black president skated away without a vote.

  10. Heard about this on the news last night.

    Since when did Americans pronounce Niger as “neej-air”, with the accent on the second syllable.

    The correct American pronunciation is here.

    At least, it used to be that way back when America was great, before a bunch of pretentious, ignorant twits took over the media.

    1. Keep this up and I won’t bring you with me on my vacation to Nicaragua.

  11. I was surprised to find we even had troops in Niger.. I keep up on this stuff, so when did that happen? Would it be simpler to keep a short list of nations we are not involved in? This is bunk!

  12. The world is full of dangerous elements that wish to harm America.
    Better to fight them over there than here.
    Doesn’t matter if it’s German Nazi’s, Japanese Imperialists, Marxists, or Boko Haram/al Qaeda.

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