Niger and Strategic Competence

Sometimes we need to just wait and see. One unfortunate aspect of extant strategy grammar is the presumed, even glorified, carte blanche it gives to governments to hide details from their publics. Secrecy in international dealings kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? Seems like a country-actor in international ‘intrigues’ is better served if it can keep the other actor-competitors from knowing what its moves and purposes are. Secrecy is just part and parcel of statesmanship, right? Not always, and for the United States, maybe not nearly as much as the PoliSci crowd allows as how.  I asked ChatGPT for what reason is there a US military presence in the country of Niger. Chat answered, “The U.S. military presence in Niger is primarily aimed at supporting counterterrorism efforts in the region. Niger is strategically important due to its location in the Sahel region of Africa, which has experienced significant activity from extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.”  I then asked Chat why US troops were now being expelled.  Chat responded, “The U.S. military is facing expulsion from Niger due to a decision by the country’s military junta, which took power in a coup. The junta has criticized the U.S. presence, labeling it as “illegal” and an infringement of Niger’s sovereignty. This decision to expel U.S. forces is also linked to Niger’s new geopolitical alignments, including deeper engagements with Russia and possibly Iran, which contrasts with the interests of the United States. Further aggravating the situation, there were perceived diplomatic tensions during recent discussions, where U.S. officials were seen as condescending, which has not been well received by the junta leadership. The U.S. had been trying to persuade Niger to avoid deepening these new international relationships, which likely contributed to the decision to end the military cooperation. This move marks a significant shift in Niger’s foreign policy and has substantial implications for the U.S. military’s operational capabilities in the region, particularly concerning counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel zone.”  This last answer was followed by a citation to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Congressman Matt Gaetz just brought the situation to light on the House floor. A couple of high-ranking US military leaders were evidently ignorant of the situation. It appears that the well-being of several hundred US troops were subordinated to a desire by our State Department leadership to keep the unfolding situation from the US public. The State Department stands accused of trying to buy a few days of obfuscation, hoping that maybe other events might ameliorate their embarrassment. Part of the price of those few days was evidently to put American troops in a very precarious situation. It’s early yet to wave our fingers too hard at these folk.  Let’s wait a bit. Doesn’t look good, though. Whoever thought up the Niger deployment, did not think hard enough about the escape route. We already know that whoever thought it was a great idea to poke the Russian Bear did not think out all the strategic consequences. Wait…oh…the same folk. So I ask you, given what we do know…are progressive PoliSci knuckleheads in charge of US military deployment?

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