Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) praised the Bundeswehr mission in West African Niger as a success during his first visit to troops abroad. “The Bundeswehr is doing extraordinary things here and has also achieved extraordinary things here under very difficult conditions,” said Scholz on Monday at the military base in Tillia.
The point is that the Nigerien armed forces can ensure security in their country themselves. Scholz acknowledged the commitment as exemplary for other regions as well. It was a “very successful mandate”, but it was also dangerous.
The Chancellor emphasized that the mission in the country, which was limited to the end of the year, is to be extended beyond that. It is now a matter of identifying “a good follow-up project”. This is done with local partners. When he now “sees the motivation of our servicewomen and men,” he has the feeling that they are looking forward to a good subsequent mandate. The mission so far has been “very successful and with a lot of heart and soul”.
At the military base in Tillia, among other things, a handful of German navy combat swimmers are training Nigerien special forces for the fight against Islamist terror in the region. According to the Operations Command, around 200 German soldiers are involved in the “Gazelle” mission, which has been running since 2018 and is part of the EU training operation EUTM. Due to a contingent change, around 260 German soldiers are currently on site.
On Friday, the Bundestag decided to end the Bundeswehr’s participation in the EUTM mission in the neighboring country of Mali, which is run by a military government. The Bundeswehr is to continue to participate in the UN mission Minusma, and the Bundestag has even raised the upper limit for troop strength to 1,400 soldiers.
The security situation in the entire Sahel region, which stretches south of the Sahara from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, is precarious. A number of armed groups are active there. Some have pledged allegiance to the terrorist groups Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda.
The instability is one reason why thousands of people from the region make their way to Europe.
Niger, with its almost 25 million inhabitants, is considered an important partner for Germany in the fight against Islamist terror in the Sahel.
The German government sees the poor country as an “anchor of stability” – especially now that the military are in power in the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso. The democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum in Niger is pursuing a pro-Western course. Unlike many other African countries, it has clearly spoken out against cooperation with Russia.
Scholz has been on a trip to Africa since Sunday. It is the Chancellor’s first visit to troops abroad. On Monday morning he flew from the capital Niamey to Tillia in a Bundeswehr military aircraft. After his visit to the troops, Scholz wanted to hold political talks in the capital, Niamey.