As a new U.S. drone base in Agadez nears completion, U.S. presence in Niger continues to perplex Americans. That is, if they’re even aware of it. Last year, when four special operations soldiers were killed in an operation there, Americans were surprised that the United States even had forces in Niger. At first glance, the French military presence in Niger and throughout the Sahel is also puzzling. France may have colonial ties to the region, but countries don’t deploy militaries – risking casualties and draining economic resources – unless they’re pursuing current, not historic, interests. Surprising though U.S. and French military activity in Niger may be, they won’t be leaving the Sahel anytime soon – the threat of jihadist groups on Europe’s doorstep is untenable.
Niger’s strategic value to the United States and France is twofold. First, it is surrounded by other states with significant jihadist activity. To the west, in Mali, is a collection