As diplomatic tensions between France and Niger reach a peak following the recent coup d’état, the withdrawal of French troops from Nigerien territory is becoming a logistical and security headache. Between closed borders, military movements under jihadist threat and a colossal challenge of disengaging equipment, France is facing one of the most complex withdrawal exercises in recent years.
Diplomatic escalation: A recalcitrant Niger and closed borders
In the tumultuous wake of the coup d’état which saw the fall of President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger reoriented its foreign policy, showing itself openly hostile towards France. This hostility is manifested by concrete actions: closing of borders, denunciation of defense agreements with France and banning French planes from its airspace. Nigerien General Abdourahamane Tchiani, head of the junta, poignantly asserts: “The Nigerien people will now dictate the shape of future relations with France”, suggesting tense negotiations for the departure of French troops.
Movements under high tension in a precarious security environment
French forces, strategically positioned across Niger, find themselves in a logistical dilemma. Soldiers stationed in Ouallam and Ayorou must move to Niamey, a hundred-kilometer march through terrain that is not only difficult but also potentially hostile. The specter of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) hangs over these regions, making any military movement risky. Although the EMA is reassuring, emphasizing the measures taken to ensure the safety of the troops, concern remains about the possibility of air support in these areas.
Logistics maze: what alternatives for disengagement of equipment?
The major challenge lies in the removal of heavy military equipment. The Benin option, with its deep-water port of Cotonou, would have been ideal. However, with this route closed, the focus turns to Chad. This alternative, although viable, presents its own complications, including the establishment of an airlift. If this option fails, it will then be necessary to consider the route from the port of Douala to Cameroon, a crossing more than 2000 km long, punctuated by risk areas, notably those controlled by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa. (ISWAP).
The shadow of jihadism: very vulnerable Nigerien forces
The gradual withdrawal of French troops leaves a security vacuum. The Nigerien armed forces (FAN) already seem to be feeling the effects of this lack of cooperation. Losses are piling up against jihadist groups, with attacks like that of the EIGS in the Tilla region, which caused numerous victims. This unstable environment raises questions about the future of regional stability, especially if Niger fails to contain the terrorist threat in the absence of French military support.
key words: Diplomatic tensions, France, Niger, coup d’état, jihadist threat, disengagement of equipment, Nigerien forces, terrorist threat.