US troops will complete their withdrawal from Niger by mid-September, the Pentagon says

WASHINGTON — US troops ordered out of Niger by the West African country’s ruling junta will complete their withdrawal by mid-September, the Pentagon and Nigerien defense officials said on Sunday.

The timeline was the result of four days of talks between the countries’ defense officials in the capital Niamey, a joint statement said.

Niger’s decision to expel U.S. forces was a blow to U.S. military operations in the Sahel, a vast region south of the Sahara where groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State operate.

The breakdown in military cooperation followed the ouster of the country’s democratically elected president last July by mutinous soldiers. A few months later, the ruling junta asked French troops to leave and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance.

In October, Washington officially labeled the military takeover a coup, prompting US laws that limited the military support and assistance the country could provide to Niger.

About 1,000 U.S. troops are still in Niger, most of them at an airbase near Agadez, some 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital.

Until recently, Washington viewed Niger as a key partner and ally in a region ravaged by coups in recent years, with millions of dollars invested in the Agadez base, which has been crucial to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel. The United States has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training the Nigerien military since it began operations there in 2013.

The Pentagon has said the US will move most of the roughly 100 troops it has deployed for now in neighboring Chad. But talks are expected to resume next month on revising an agreement that would allow US troops to be stationed in Chad.