The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted against a bill that would have required President Joe Biden to pull out U.S. troops from Niger, a West African country where the military took over in July.
The bill was defeated by 86-11.
The United States announced this month that the military coup d’etat in Niger officially means stopping aid, but U.S. officials said they did not plan to change the U.S. troop presence in the country.
Niger has been a partner for Washington’s fight against Islamist militants who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more in Africa. There are about 1,000 Department of Defense personnel in the country.
Republican Senator Rand Paul, who proposed the bill, said that the troops were wrongly deployed without congressional approval and said Americans should not be in danger of getting involved in a conflict in Niger.
“With the Middle East on fire, what sense does it make to have over 1,000 troops in Niger? Does it make sense to station over 1,000 troops in a country ruled by a military junta?” Paul said in a Senate speech.
Senator Ben Cardin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that if Americans withdraw it could create a gap that could be filled by Russia or its partner Wagner mercenaries.
“We do not give enough attention to that part of the world. We certainly don’t want to signal that we’re abandoning that part of the world,” Cardin said.
Over the past decade, U.S. troops have trained Nigerien forces in counterterrorism and operated two military bases, including one that conducts drone missions against Islamic State and an Al Qaeda affiliate in the region.
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