France withdraws troops from Niger

Two months after the military coup in Niger, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the 1,500 soldiers still stationed there will be completely withdrawn from the West African country by the end of the year and that the ambassador will be flown out. In the meantime the military junta in Niamey has closed the country’s airspace to French aircraft. Europe’s press takes stock of the situation.

The Economist (GB) /

No alternative

The withdrawal was inevitable under the circumstances, The Economist believes:

“It is partly a pragmatic recognition that the junta was not going to budge, and that regional countries, despite their threats, were unlikely to try to dislodge it from power. The decision also marks a reluctant and painful realisation in Paris that its influence on the continent has taken a severe knock. In the eyes of a generation of younger Nigeriens, and partly thanks to the efficiency of Russian disinformation campaigns, France is now regarded as the problem, not the solution. ... Had its troops and diplomats stayed in spite of the junta’s demands, this could have precipitated a nasty confrontation.”

Le Monde (FR) /

The West in retreat

In its editorial, Le Monde sees a trend confirmed:

“Two years after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, another Western power is being forced to pull its troops out of a country where it was engaged. France is withdrawing from Niger, where it thought it had found a refuge for its troops which had been driven out of Mali. One small consolation: Paris hopes to carry out the withdrawal in an orderly manner, in contrast to the disastrous 2021 evacuation from Kabul. Whether orderly or chaotic, and whatever the scale, the message sent by such withdrawals remains the same: that the West is being forced to retreat.”

Sylvie Kauffmann
Avvenire (IT) /

Democracy is losing its appeal

France needs to ask itself uncomfortable questions, says Avvenire:

“France, which was supposed to fight the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, was ousted from the Sahel by popularly supported military coups. And it’s not just Russian trolls who are to blame for Wagner mercenaries replacing the French and leaving Western migration routes in the hands of the Kremlin. ... In addition, the neo-colonial exploitation of resources, such as the uranium mines in Niger, has brought no benefit to the population. ... This also partly explains the declining popularity of the concept of democracy in the French-speaking countries of Africa.”

Paolo Lambruschi