Niger Coup Leaders Trained at Fort Benning

August 20th, 2023 - by Win Without War & Nick Turse / The Intercept

Niger Coup Leaders Trained at Fort Benning
Win Without War

(August 19, 2023) — With the US war in Afghanistan over, you may have thought an era of endless war has ended — far from it. Today, the United States remains on perpetual war footing, and often with devastating results.

Like just weeks ago, when US-trained soldiers led a coup in Niger. US-trainees originally given instruction in the name of “countering terrorism,” have ultimately helped launch nearly a dozen coups across West Africa since 2008.

Disastrous operations in Niger, Mali, Guinea, and more aren’t a failure of the US military machine: they’re the system working exactly as designed. And that system won’t stop until we fundamentally change the core of US foreign policy.

Right now, Congress is considering repealing the 2002 AUMF — the outdated law that justified the US invasion of Iraq. And here’s something big: we’re on the verge of winning. But this progress, as crucial as it is, is merely a stepping stone to the bigger fight to repeal the linchpin of global perpetual war: the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

With so much on the line, we need to keep building power. Our team is making seismic changes to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity: Expand our reach, deepen our relationships on the Hill, and raise the alarm in the media.

On top of continuing operations in Somalia, Iraq, and Syria, you may not know that the United States ALSO has significant military deployments in Cameroon, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Turkey.

It’s a staggering scale of war that spans the globe, and while there are many classified battlefields we don’t know about, some we do, like the sprawling US drone base in Agadez, Niger. Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, head of US Army Special Operations Command, met Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, a US trained Nigerien soldier, there in June. Barmou would help oust Niger’s democratically elected president a few weeks later.

The suffering and chaos Nigeriens now face is just another example of a failed US strategy to “counter terrorism” — but this is no accident. Instead of rooting out corruption, helping to alleviate poverty, or combat human rights abuses in countries like Niger, the United States prioritizes weapons sales and war training.

Our system is geared towards war and violence because of the power of weapons contractors, because voices of impacted people are locked out, and because a status-quo, military-first mindset reigns supreme.

Here’s the simple truth: When you invest in war, you get more war.

War profiteers have made TRILLIONS in profits since 9/11 and stand to lose BIG if we’re successful in pulling the plug on the 2001 AUMF — and they know it. That’s why they’re throwing EVERYTHING they’ve got toward keeping the war machine running.

We need to ramp up our work to meet them and this moment head on. THIS is when we leave it all on the table: Raise the alarm in the media, make non-stop phone calls to our allies in Congress, mobilize grassroots activists to get even louder, and more.

Our campaign to end endless war won’t stop until Congress tears up ALL the blank checks for endless war. 

Niger Coup Leader Joins
Long Line of US-Trained Mutineers

Nick Turse / The Intercept

(July 27, 2023) — Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the chief of Niger’s Special Operations Forces and one of the leaders of the unfolding coup in Niger, was trained by the US military, The Intercept has confirmed. US-trained military officers have taken part in 11 coups in West Africa since 2008.

“We have had a very long relationship with the United States,” Barmou said in 2021. “Being able to work together in this capacity is very good for Niger.”

Just last month, Barmou met with Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the head of US Army Special Operations Command, at Air Base 201, a drone base in the Nigerien city of Agadez that serves as the lynchpin of an archipelago of US outposts in West Africa.

On Wednesday, Barmou, who trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the National Defense University in Washington, joined a junta that ousted Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s democratically elected president, according to Nigerien sources and a US government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Barmou did not return phone calls and text messages from The Intercept.

A US official tracking the coup, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Barmou’s relationship with the US military and said he was probably not alone. “I’m sure we will find out that others have been partners, have been involved in US engagements,” he said of other members of the junta, noting that US government agencies were looking into the matter.

US-trained officers have conducted in at least six coups in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali since 2012. They have also been involved in recent takeovers in Gambia (2014), Guinea (2021), Mauritania (2008), and Niger (2023).

“We train to standards — the laws of war and democratic standards,” said the US official. “These are foreign military personnel. We can’t control what they do. We have no way to stop them.”

Members of Niger’s Presidential Guard surrounded the president’s palace in Niamey on Wednesday and took Bazoum hostage. Bazoum and his family were “doing well,” the Nigerien presidency said on the platform formerly known as Twitter. Later, the account repeated what Bazoum had posted on his personal page: “The hard-won achievements will be safeguarded. All Nigeriens who love democracy and freedom will see to it.” Neither account has posted anything further in the last 12 hours.

Calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country, Barmou and eight other high-ranking officers delivered a statement on Nigerien state television shortly after detaining Bazoum. The “defense and security forces” had “decided to put an end to the regime … due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance,” according to their spokesperson

Since 2012, US taxpayers have spent more than $500 million inNiger, making it one of the largest security assistance programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Across the continent, the State Department counted just nine terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2003, compared with 2,737 last year in Burkina Faso, Mali, and western Niger alone, according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a US Defense Department research institution.

US troops train, advise, and assist their Nigerien counterparts and have fought and even died there. Over the last decade, the number of US military personnel deployed to Niger has jumped from just 100 to 1,016. Niger has also seen a proliferation of US outposts.

US troops working to arm and train soldiers iin West Africa.

Barmou and Braga met last month to “discuss anti-terrorism policy and tactics throughout the region,” according to a military news release. The Pentagon says that the US partnership with Niger’s army, especially its commandos, is key to countering militants.

Defense Department agencies partner with the Nigerien Army and Special Operators to fight violent extremism throughout Northwest Africa, but experts say the overwhelming focus on counterterrorism is part of the problem.

“The major issues fueling conflict in Niger and the Sahel are not military in nature — they stem from people’s frustration with poverty, the legacy of colonialism, elite corruption, and political and ethnic tensions and injustices. Yet rather than address these issues, the US government has prioritized sending weapons and funding and training the region’s militaries to wage their own wars on terror,” said Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University, and an expert on US military efforts in West Africa.

“One of the hugely negative consequences has been to empower the region’s security forces at the expense of other government institutions, and this is surely one factor in the slate of coups we’ve seen in Niger, Burkina Faso, and elsewhere in recent years.”

The Nigerien Embassy in Washington, DC, did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment. The US State Department also did not reply to The Intercept’s requests for information prior to publication.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.