Blinken ‘historic’ trip to Niger in Sahel shift
US op diplomat Antony Blinken has embarked on his latest official trip to Africa, where he will become the first Secretary of State to visit Niger. Thursday’s historic visit comes as the West African country emerges as an increasingly significant partner to the US and its European allies in the Sahel region, following successive coups in Mali and Burkina Faso and the growing influence of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
The trip follows US President Joe Biden’s hosting of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in December, part of a pledge to increase US engagement with the continent. Speaking to reporters last week, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee called Niger “one of the most important partners on the continent in terms of security deals’