When an ambush killed five Nigerien troops and four US soldiers last October, Americans weren’t the only ones surprised to learn of the US military presence in the poverty-stricken country on the edge of the Sahara.
People in Niger were stunned, too, reported Buzzfeed News. And not all of them were happy.
“I won’t lie to you: People don’t like it,” Daouda Dakoye, a 34-year-old teacher, told the website. “In Niger, nobody knew America had 800 soldiers [stationed here] until after the attack. We see the French soldiers coming and going, building things, transporting materials. But the American soldiers — I mean, where are they? What are they hiding?”
Rated by the United Nations as one of the world’s least-developed countries, Niger is battling several Islamist groups linked to both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda along its long, loosely governed border with Mali, noted the Washington Post.
Leading up to the responsibility for the ambush.ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo, militants had staged at least 46 attacks, mostly targeting local security forces, since February 2016, according to the United Nations. Niger had already declared a state of emergency in various districts of the area. Last week, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, who was a member of Al Qaeda’s regional branch before pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, claimed
Meanwhile, in neighboring Mali, some 4,000 French troops and 10,000 UN peacekeepers haven’t been able to eliminate Islamist militants altogether, nearly five years after France’s military intervention in 2013.
reported. And French President Emmanuel Macron flew into Niger’s capital, Niamey, just before Christmas to pledge to continue the fight against extremists there in 2018, AFP reported., Italian lawmakers approved sending troops to Niger to fight human trafficking and terrorism, the Associated Press
Why, then, are some Nigeriens concerned about the presence of US troops? Many fear that the deployment of armed drones – as requested by the Nigerien government after the October ambush – could lead to a rash of controversial killings like those that have angered citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(The Intercept news site reported in 2015 that airstrikes, usually by drone, conducted by US special operations units during Operation Haymaker in the Afghan theater had killed people other than their intended targets nine times out of 10.)
“Given the recent authorization to engage in offensive operations, we’re also concerned about the parameters of US operations,” saidCorinne Dufka, associate director for West Africa at Human Rights Watch. “The US needs to be transparent about the scope of any operations and fully respect human rights.”
Accusations of civilian fatalities have dogged the expansion of America’s military presence in Africa, where American soldiers conduct around 10 missions a day – or 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements per year, the US military’s top commander for Africa recently revealed.
For instance, the US denied claims that civilians were killed as collateral damage in an August raid on a Somali village, even after Somali officials had admitted that 10 civilians, including children, had been killed.
Death by drone could be more contentious.