ABUJA, Nigeria — The French troops withdrawing from Niger were seen as a key line of defense for about a decade in Western efforts against jihadi violence in Africa's Sahel region, the vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert.
As the U.S. keeps pushing for a diplomatic solution to resolve Niger's political crisis, analysts say the country's junta might struggle to sustain its relative peace with no external support.
French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to withdraw France's ambassador and troops from Niger after the July coup that deposed its elected president and triggered anti-French sentiment in the former colony. In response, the junta welcomed the end of “imperialist and neo-colonialist forces” and said Monday that the withdrawal must follow a “negotiated framework and mutual agreement.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Kenya on Monday that Washington's desire is for Niger's political crisis to be resolved through diplomatic means and that the United States will “continue to evaluate for any future steps that would prioritize both our democratic and our security goals.”
Niger's political crisis threatens those ambitions in regard to counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, analysts say. The region accounted for more than 40% of extremist deaths in the world in 2022, according to the Global Terrorism Index.
Many of the attacks in the region occurred in Niger's neighbors, Burkina Faso…