Chad Asks US to Cease Operations at Strategic Army Base

(Bloomberg) -- Chad called on the US to withdraw its troops from an army base in the central African country that’s one of the West’s few remaining outposts to fight a roiling jihadist insurgency in the region.

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The move comes a month after Niger — another key Western ally in the region — suspended its security agreement with the US, amid a series of coups that have seen military-ruled governments in the Sahel forge closer ties with Russia while cutting those with the West.

Chad has alerted the US “to stop their activity at the base,” according to a letter to the US defense attaché seen by Bloomberg. The letter, signed by the air force chief of staff Idriss Amine Ahmed, was verified by a foreign ministry spokesman, who declined to comment further.

US broadcaster CNN on Thursday reported that Chad had asked US troops to leave the country, citing a separate letter sent to the US defense attaché.

“Chad hasn’t asked US forces to leave,” a US state department spokesman said. “The US and Chad have agreed that the period following the upcoming Chadian presidential election is an appropriate time to review our security cooperation.”

Chad’s Interim President Mahamat Deby, who seized power three years ago following the death of his father, is widely expected to extend his family’s three-decade long rule in the May 6 polls.

In January, Deby became the latest military ruler in the Sahel to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and stress the need for “sovereignty.”

“Chad’s a free and independent country,” Deby told French broadcaster France24 this week. “We’re not a slave looking to change his master. We intend to work with all nations that respect us.”

The military rulers of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, who all seized power over the past three years, have also cut security ties with former allies in the West amid an upsurge in anti-Western sentiment in the region — particularly against ex-colonial power France — that Russia has exploited.

(Adds response from US state department spokesman in fifth paragraph.)

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