France will have left Niger by the end of the year. The President of the Republic confirmed this yesterday during an interview with France 2 and TF1. A new major logistics operation to be carried out, but in fact already prepared for several weeks.
New logistics scenario in Niger for the armies
And three. The military coup in Niger and the impasse it created in bilateral relations forced France to leave the country, as it had already done in Mali and then in Burkina Faso. The first case was the most complex: 2,500 soldiers and their land equipment, who had been evacuated thanks to an effort by the Atlases of the 61st transport wing from Orléans, as well as by road, to… Niger where a part of the resources remained on site, some for operations (notably the Tiger and Caiman helicopters), others for a staggered return by all possible means (air and land, via Burkina Faso).
The departure from Bukina Faso had been simpler, the special forces which had established their rear base there in… 2010 have by nature a lighter footprint than the conventional forces. The withdrawal from Niger appears as a logistical operation halfway between these two precedents. The general staff had already repatriated the Arlit post in August, around forty soldiers who looked after nationals linked to uranium mining activity. The latter having been among those evacuated by a dedicated operation carried out by the Airbus (A330 and Phénix) of the 31st EARTS, the presence of Arlit’s soldiers was no longer justified: they had taken the path to France, via Chad.
1,500 soldiers to be evacuated in three months
There remain 1,500 soldiers to be evacuated in three months. As with the two previous operations, success will also depend on the local environment, even if the junta has every interest in not complicating the departure of the French… which it had demanded. Two thirds of the French workforce are stationed on the planned Niamey air base (the rest on two advanced posts), itself encased in air base 101 of the Nigerien Air Force. The army headquarters remains discreet about the volumes of equipment present on site, but recognizes that there are still fighters (a priori three Mirage 2000Ds, the others being stationed in N’Djamena), maneuvering helicopters and attack (Caiman and Tiger, for more than half a dozen in total) and two tactical transport aircraft, probably a C-130J and a Casa 235, as well as Reaper drones.
The Airbus A400Ms of the 61st Transport Wing
That’s around fifteen aircraft. Part of it will probably be relocated to Chad (possibly in Ivory Coast), which hosts another transport plane, a trio of fighters and a Phénix tanker (too big for the BAP in Niamey, it had been established directly in Chad). The rest of the resources, undoubtedly the majority, will return to France: this reduced operational demand will do good for these aircraft, which have been mobilized for more than ten years in the war on terrorism in Africa. Mechanically, France’s withdrawals from the Sahelo-Saharan strip will therefore have a beneficial effect on the availability of the types of equipment concerned, and will allow personnel to concentrate on preparation for high-intensity combat.
After the departure from Mali, the use of air assets was mainly focused on the operational military partnership in Niger and Chad, at a relatively high cost. In the coming weeks, however, one unit will be particularly mobilized: the 61st transport wing, whose A400Ms will carry out, in less than three years, their third major logistics operation (interspersed with two RESEVACs). To allow them to work, the junta will have to reverse one of its latest decisions, which had banned its airspace… to French planes, both civil and military.