Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) and the responsible German officers in Niamey currently see no reason to withdraw from the air transport base in the Nigerien capital. Although the putschists there have initially imposed a flight ban until this Friday, Pistorius is reasonably confident that flights will be possible again and that Niamey will remain a hub for the orderly withdrawal of the German armed forces from Mali.
Pistorius said on Thursday during a visit to troops in Bavaria that the development was “a little unclear”. However, the commander of the base assured him in a telephone call “that he is not worried that the situation is calm. We are closely monitoring the situation, on the one hand, and also in close coordination with the Federal Foreign Office. And at the same time, from the first day of the coup, the Bundeswehr is planning how we can get out quickly when in doubt. The number one priority is the safety of the soldiers in Niamey and also in Mali. We are examining all alternatives.”
At the moment it looks as if more material could be brought back from Mali via Niamey. To do this, the Bundeswehr needs several hundred flights, including with Ilyushin wide-body civil aircraft. It’s about 1300 container equivalents, minus the material to be left behind.
Soldiers do not perceive the situation as immediately threatening
As the online portal “Eyes Straight Out” has observed, several such cargo flights have already passed through the Algerian airfield in Tamanrasset in the southern Sahara and were refueled there. When they are loaded, the machines cannot leave the German base in Gao with a full tank because of the shorter runway there and have to stop over to refuel. The machines of the Azerbaijani airline Silk Air have landed there at least twice since the coup on their way to Leipzig. Knowledgeable sources confirmed the report.
However, the Algerian airfield is about twice as far from Gao as Niamey, which should affect loading. It is unclear whether such stops would also be possible with military aircraft. Should Niamey drop out, it would probably need more than a “gas station” in the desert. Setting up a new base would take several weeks. The search for such alternatives is ongoing.
Boris Pistorius on April 12 in Niamey : Build: dpa
As can be learned from Niamey, the soldiers and diplomatic personnel there do not perceive the situation as immediately threatening. The embassy staff, who temporarily moved to the airport, have returned to the diplomatic mission. It will probably even continue to be bought from local suppliers for the base in the city.
From a military point of view, it was also unclear how the situation would develop during demonstrations on National Day and what would happen after an ultimatum from West African states to the putschists expired. The Foreign Office had advised all German civilians in Niger to leave the country, and most of the 50 to 70 people have since done so on French planes that landed in Niamey to fly out nationals.
Franca Wittenbrink Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 7 Published/Updated: Recommendations: 4 Claudia Bröll, Cape Town Published/Updated: Recommendations: 13
Soldiers who are currently still with Nigerien units in northern Tillia as part of the new European training mission EUMPM have meanwhile been recalled and are to return to the base in Niamey. This also applies to a handful of other soldiers who work in this context. The European Union has currently stopped cooperation with Niger, economically and militarily. Only humanitarian aid is provided.
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