Special Forces in Niger – Countering Terrorist Groups

Special Forces in Niger

U.S. Army Special Forces in Niger have been working with host nation security forces to help counter the activities of several terrorist and insurgent groups operating in the region. The most well-known of these groups is Boko Haram. This terrorist group has been around for some time and has been responsible for a significant amount of violence. Boko Haram has turned out to be a long-term insurgent and terrorism problem for Nigeria. [1] In addition, al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State have a presence in adjacent countries in northern Africa and there is spillover into the country of Niger.

Niger. This former French colony is one of the poorest in the world. Located in West Africa it is a land-locked country. It is bordered by Nigeria, Chad, Libya, Algeria, Mali, Bukina Faso, and Benin.

Map of Niger

Regional Assistance. As part of a long-term effort to assist Nigeria and neighboring countries to counter Boko Haram U.S. special operations forces have been providing training and assistance to not only Nigeria but to Chad, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger. In addition, Niger is one of the five countries comprising ‘Africa’s G5’ – Mali, Niger, Burkino Faso, Chad, and Mauritania. The G5 is working with France to fight militant groups in the region. France has been conducting a major campaign in the region called Operation Barkhane. To a degree, U.S. forces (SOF and CF) are working with the French forces.

U.S. SOF Training Nigerien Troops during Flintlock Exercise in March, 2017 (Photo by SPC Zayid Ballesteros, U.S. Army)
U.S. SOF Training Nigerien Troops during Flintlock Exercise in March, 2017 (Photo by SPC Zayid Ballesteros, U.S. Army)

SOF in Niger. For a few years the U.S. has had special operations forces working with local Niger forces to enhance security measures against Boko Haram incursions and operations as well as other terrorist and insurgent groups. SOF personnel have worked in the past with Niger’s 3rd Antiterrorist Company as well as with recently established civil-military affairs units of the Niger military. Most of these operations take place along the lightly-patrolled border with Nigeria along the Komadougou Yobe River; although operations also take place along border regions of other neighboring countries. The Mali – Niger border is an area with a lot of activity from elements of al-Qaida in the Islamic Magheb. The presence of SOF in Niger is part of an overall global campaign against violent extremists.

Military Personnel in Niger. Including SOF, there are approximately 600-800 U.S. military personnel in Niger. Many are logistics personnel, trainers, intelligence analysts, and drone operators and support personnel.

Drone Bases. in 2013 the United States set up a drone base that provided ISR support to the U.S. SOF working in the greater region – the Sahel and Chad Lake Basin. Some of the Intel gathered by the UAV is probably passed on to the counterinsurgent forces of Chad, Niger, Nigerian, Mali, and Cameroon. In addition, France – with a large counterterrorism force working in Mali and smaller force stationed in Niger – is likely receiving intel provided by the drones. One drone base is located in Niamey, the nations capital and a second in Agadez, Niger. The Aqadez base reportedly cost in the vicinity of $100 million. The two locations are described by the U.S. military as “security cooperation locations”.

SOCAfrica. The lead agency responsible for coordinating special operations activities in Africa is Special Operations Command – Africa. SOCAfrica is a subordinate unit of Africa Command or AFRICOM. There are a great number of special operations unit from all service components that operate in Africa (it is a huge continent). The 3rd Special Forces Group is the lead SF organization for Africa although 10th Group and 20th Group play significant roles as well. [2]

Footnotes:

[1] See SOF and Boko Haram – Nigeria’s Long-Term Insurgent NightmareSOF News, December 28, 2016.

[2] See Africa and 3rd Special Forces GroupSOF News, July 9, 2017.

References:

The World Factbook – NigerCentral Intelligence Agency.

In the Eye of the Storm: Niger and its unstable neighbors, by Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution, June 13, 2017.

“Army Special Operations in Africa”, Special Warfare, January – March 2017, Volume 30 Issue 1.
www.soc.mil/swcs/SWmag/archive/SW3001/JAN_MAR_2017.pdf

Edited: On Wednesday, October 4, 2017, three Green Berets were killed in an ambush of a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol near the border with Mali. See Three Green Berets Killed in Niger, SOF News, October 4, 2017.

Update: See an article wrote by Jared Keller entitled Niger: The Quiet War on Terror Americans Rarely Hear AboutTask and Purpose, October 5, 2017.

About John Friberg 95 Articles

John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.