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Russian trainers, US troops housed in same base in Niger

For illustration purposes: U.S. troops control a road near the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in Farah, southwestern Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2005.   -  
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As US troops prepare their departure from Niger, they are now sharing an airbase with Russian trainers.

A US official said international troops including the Germans resided on the Niamey facility, known as Airbase 101.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense confirmed the reports from Honululu Hawaii on Thursday (May 2nd).

"You asked about Niger and Russians being in the same space that we're in in Niger, I think you know that Airbase 101, where our forces is, is a Nigerien, Air Force base that, is co-located with, an international airport in a capital city," he explained.

"The Russians are in a separate, compound and don't have access to U.S. forces or access to our equipment. And this is something that I'm always focused, on the on the safety and the protection of our troops. Something that we'll continue to watch. Right now, I don't see a significant issue here, in terms of our force protection."

Nigeriens protested for weeks demanding the US troops leave the country.

In late April, talks between Niamey and Washington began for the withdrawal of US troops stationed in two airbases in the Sahelian nation.

The Pentagon has said the U.S. troops will depart but has not provided a precise timeline.

Restrategizing presence in the Sahel

The bulk of US troops in Niger moved from Niamey to what's called Airbase 201 near Agadez, some 920 kilometers (550 miles) away from the capital, not long after mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president last July.

A few months later, the ruling junta asked French forces to leave and turned to the Russian mercenary group Wagner for security assistance.

Until recently, Washington was relying on Niger where one of its key bases is located.

The Agadez base in northern Niger has been critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations in the Sahel using it for manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other operations.

READ ALSO: US says it will return to Chad for talks to keep troops in the country

The U.S. also has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

As of last year, there were a little more than 1,000 U.S. troops in Niger.

The Pentagon also has said the U.S. will relocate most of the forces it has deployed in neighboring Chad for now. Chad is also considering whether to continue its security agreement with the U.S.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the departure from Chad "is a temporary step as part of the ongoing review of our security cooperation, which will resume after Chad’s May 6th presidential election.”

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