Sen. Rand Paul is expected to call Thursday for a vote on a joint resolution that would require President Joe Biden to “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Niger” within 30 days.
“Since 2013, members of the United States Armed Forces have been introduced into hostilities with terrorist organizations and insurgent groups in the Republic of Niger, including through direct exchanges of fire with such groups,” reads the resolution. “Congress has not declared war against the Republic of Niger or any organization or group in Niger, nor has Congress provided a specific statutory authorization for the involvement of United States Armed Forces in the armed conflict or any hostilities in Niger.”
The move follows the State Department’s October 10 declaration that a coup had taken place in Niger over the summer. For months following the overthrow of the democratically elected president by a military junta that includes at least five U.S.-trained military officers, the U.S. government declined to officially designate it an illegal takeover.
The United States has suspended approximately $200 million in foreign assistance to Niger as a result of the coup designation but continues to have a major military presence there, including a large drone base in in the northern city of Agadez and more than 1,000 military personnel, according to a June “war powers” letter to Congress from Biden. After a pause, drone flights resumed in August.
Over the last decade, during which U.S. troop strength in Niger grew by 900 percent, U.S. Special Operations forces trained local counterparts and fought and even died there. After a 2017 ISIS ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded, a Pentagon investigation found that while U.S. Africa Command claimed that U.S. troops were providing “advice and assistance” to local forces, the missions “more closely resembled U.S. direct action” — a military euphemism for strikes, raids, and other offensive missions — “than foreign partner-led operations”
“After more than 20 years of fighting and the deaths of over 432,000 civilians and 7,052 U.S. servicemembers, we must change course from this failed militarized response and towards a more sustainable, rights-respecting approach to counterterrorism and national security,” said Heather Brandon-Smith, the legislative director for foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group, referring to those killed during the U.S. war on terror. “Senator Paul’s resolution is a critical step to help set the United States on this long-overdue path.”
In addition to FNCL, Paul’s resolution has been endorsed by The American Conservative, Frontiers of Freedom, Concerned Veterans of America, the Center for Renewing America, Just Foreign Policy, Heritage Action, and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a spokesperson for Paul told The Intercept.
Between 2012 to 2023, the U.S. provided Niger with more than $500 million in military aid, one of the largest security assistance programs in sub-Saharan Africa. But despite copious aid to Niger and its neighbors, terrorist violence in the African Sahel has spiked. “The Sahel has seen a doubling in the number of violent events involving militant Islamist groups since 2021 (now totaling 2,912),” according to a recent report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research institution. “It has also experienced a near tripling in fatalities linked to this violence in the same timeframe (to 9,818 deaths).”
In early September, Paul sent a letter — citing The Intercept’s reporting on the secret use of proxy forces in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia — to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asking for information about U.S. military operations in Niger and around the world. He has yet to receive a response, according to Paul’s spokesperson. “Sen. Paul’s Niger War Powers Resolution will provide the opportunity for elected officials to debate and go on record on the question of whether the United States should send its troops to fight in Niger,” said Paul’s communications director, Madeline Meeker. “This proposal will allow the American people to see how their representatives view the responsibility of sending their sons and daughters into warzones around the globe.”
Last month, The Intercept contacted the offices of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — both of whom pledged in 2019 to help bring the forever wars to a “responsible and expedient” end — to inquire if they supported Paul’s joint resolution. Neither office responded to those emails or follow-ups.
“Any senator who is serious about ending endless wars will vote for Senator Paul’s Niger War Powers Resolution. Niger had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and therefore this mission can’t reasonably be said to be authorized under the 2001 AUMF,” said Aida Chavez, the communications director and policy adviser at Just Foreign Policy, referring to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the overarching justification for the so-called war on terror, enacted in the wake of the September 11 attacks. “If the Biden administration wants to have troops there in late 2023 partnering with a military that just led a coup, it should ask Congress to debate and vote and let the American people weigh in.”