Submitted By Kaeto
Strategic Intelligence – Niger
Instead of the U.S. randomly tossing funds to a poverty-stricken Niger that can’t quite keep its head above water, a more direct approach should be taken. If the U.S. were to take on a more personal role with Niger, as a surrogate “Big Brother,” would this not be more efficient and stabilize Niger all the more quickly? This would mean a partnership between the two countries where the U.S. would first send in its armed forces to take charge of Nigerien forces and bolster security force numbers. Then, admitting grants and loans for American industries to develop inside of Niger, bringing in American managers and trainers to utilize a Nigerien workforce to mine raw materials, thus creating jobs, skills, and financial stability for the country. Simultaneously bringing in special skills workers such as engineers, doctors, and the like to aid in reworking Niger’s infrastructure from the most basic crisis on up. All funded by Niger’s own natural resources. To better understand if such an agreement between the U.S. and Niger would even be a viable option; there are a few variables to consider about the country of Niger that include: Niger’s geography, history and politics, military, transport and economy, demographics and religion. Niger is a landlocked nation in West Africa and located along the border between the Sahara and Sub-Saharan regions. Niger’s area is 1,267,000 square kilometers of which 300 square kilometers is water. In comparison, this would make it slightly less than twice the size of Texas and the world’s twenty-second largest country. Niger borders seven countries and has a total perimeter of 5,697 kilometers. The lowest point is the Niger River, with an elevation of 200 meters. The highest point is Mont Idoukal-n-Taghes in the Air Mountains at 2,022 meters. Niger’s subtropical climate is mainly very hot and dry, with much desert area. The terrain is predominantly desert plains and sand dunes, with flat to rolling savanna in the south and hills in the North. (Wikipedia, 2012) Niger has recurring droughts and is one of the hottest countries in the world; the northern four-fifths is desert, the southern one-fifth is savanna, which is suitable for livestock and limited agriculture. (CIA WFB, 2012) Considering these facts, the difficulty and financial cost to bring in the resources needed to begin and sustain a large-scale military operation would be compounded due to the lack of coastal access and large, desert regions. Niger received its full independence from France on 3 August, 1960 and for the next fourteen years was an independent state. During this time, Niger was run by a single-party civilian regime. In 1974, due to a combination of devastating drought and accusations of government corruption, there was a coup d’état that led to the country being ruled by a small military group until the death of that military Colonel in 1987. Following his death, his Chief of Staff succeeded and began to liberalize a few of Niger’s laws and policies, creating a single party constitutional Second Republic. However, by the end of 1990, demands by unions and students to institute a multi-party democratic system caused his regime to fail. New political parties and civic associations were sprang up and a national peace conference was convened in July 1991 to pave the way for a new constitution and the holding of free and fair elections. (Wikipedia, 2012) A caretaker government was installed until the institutions of the Third Republic were initiated in April 1993. Because of the equal powers of the president and prime minister, a military Colonel used their lack of agreeing to accomplish anything to justify his coup d’état and the Third Republic was overthrown in January 1996. This coup was short-lived because of yet another coup led by a Major which resulted in the assassination of the Colonel. This Major established a Council to oversee the drafting of a constitution for a Fifth Republic with a semi-presidential system. This system was approved in July 1999 and internationally accepted as fair. Most recently, in 2010, another coup d’état occurred in response to the president attempting to manipulate the constitution to further extend his political term. After the coup, elections were held in 2011 that were judged internationally to be free and fair. (Wikipedia, 2012) Operational environments are a composite of the conditions, circumstances, and influences that affect the employment of capabilities and bear on the decisions of the commander. (FM 3-0, 2008) With Niger’s history of military coups and frequent corruption within its government, it would be a great challenge, if not impossible, for the U.S. to conduct stability operations without the approval of Niger to bring in enough armed forces to stifle any chance of further destabilization. The Tuareg and other nomadic tribes make up approximately 20% of Niger’s population and would likely rebel against any change, even a positive change, to their way of life. As with the challenges of the geography of Niger, the history and culture of the Nigerien populace would be equally worrisome for U.S. decision makers when weighing the benefits against the drawbacks in aiding Niger. Niger’s demographics would be among the most important aspects for a commander to consider before even stepping foot into the country. Among the most abundant ethnicities, Hausa, also one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, constitutes over half the population of Niger. The ethnic groups Gourmantche and Hausa are sedentary farmers who reside in the arable, southern part of the country. Because of the rapidly growing populations and the frustrating competition over limited quantities of natural resources, the differences in lifestyles between agriculturalists and livestock herders have created tension and conflict within Niger in recent years. There was a Nigerien study that approximates that more than 800,000 people are enslaved, which is nearly 8% of the population. (Wikipedia, 2012) Niger shares comparable levels in high infant mortality rates with neighboring countries. Due to poor health conditions and inadequate nutrition for most of the country’s children, the child mortality rate (children between the ages of 1 and 4) is exceptionally high. Despite these statistics, Niger still claims the gold for the highest fertility rate in the world (7.52 births per woman); this means that nearly half (49%) of the Nigerien population is under the age of 15. In regards to the maternal mortality rate, Niger ranks 11th with 820 deaths/100,000 live births. It’s rated that there were approximately 3 physicians and 22 nurses per 100,000 persons in 2006. (Wikipedia, 2012) Along with poor health, Niger’s literacy rate is among the lowest in the world. In 2005 it was estimated to only be 28.7% (42.9% male and 15.1% female). Primary education in Niger is only mandatory for 6 years. In spite of this, the primary school enrollment and attendance rates are low, particularly for girls. About 60% of children who finish primary school are boys, as girls rarely attend for more than a few years. Most often, children are forced to work rather than attend school, especially during planting or harvest seasons. In addition to this, the nomadic children in the north of the country do not even have access to schools. (Wikipedia, 2012) Simultaneity means doing multiple things at the same time. It requires the ability to conduct in depth and to orchestrate them so that their timing multiplies their effectiveness. Commanders consider their entire area of operations the enemy, the information tasks necessary to shape the operational environment, and civil conditions. (FM 3-0, 2008) This means that high rates in civilian poverty, a crippling lack of education, and slavery are all major issues within Niger that would hinder any profitable partnerships between the U.S. and Niger and would require massive resources and manpower from U.S. armed forces to help rectify. In civil support operations and some stability operations, depth includes conducting operations that reach all citizens in the area of operations, bringing relief as well as hope. (FM 3-0, 2008) The Niger Armed Forces total approximately 12,000 personnel, including 3,700 gendarmes, 300 air force members, and 6,000 army personnel. These forces include a general staff and battalion task force organizations consisting of two paratroop units, four light armored units, and nine motorized infantry units. Their experience in operations include sending a company of troops to the Ivory Coast as part of an international stabilization force and about 400 military personnel to join the American-led allied forces against Iraq during the Gulf War. (Wikipedia, 2012) The U.S. already has good relations with the Niger Armed Forces. In the past, U.S. assistance focused on training pilots and aviation support personnel, professional military education for staff officers, and initial specialty training for junior officers. (Wikipedia, 2012) Keeping this history between us in mind, there is already a strong foundation between our armed forces and it would not be a long stretch to expand on that which is already established. Establishing similar pillars that we use within our own military structuring within the Nigerien forces would decrease the time that U.S. forces would need to remain within Niger en masse. Niger’s economy revolves around subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world’s largest uranium deposits. Unfortunately, drought cycles, desertification, an abundant growth rate, and a drop in the world’s demand for uranium are having a detrimental impact on the economy. Niger also shares a common currency, the CFA franc, and a common central bank, the Central Bank of West African States, with seven other members of the West African Monetary Union. (Wikipedia, 2012)
In December 2000, Niger qualified for enhanced debt relief under the International Monetary Fund program for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. This has allowed Niger to make expenditures on basic health care, primary education, HIV/AIDS prevention, rural infrastructure, and several other programs that are geared towards poverty reduction. In addition, it was announced in December 2005 that Niger had received debt relief aid from the International Monetary Fund, which worked out to approximately 86 million USD. (Wikipedia, 2012) With a large proportion of Niger’s debt wiped clean, uranium prices recovering in the last few years and the potential for exploiting Niger’s raw materials (uranium, oil, gold, coal, etc.), there are several ways for the U.S. to fund operations within Niger and also spark a boom in industry for the Nigeriens themselves. Currently, the U.S. government already donates approximately $10 million each year to Niger’s development.
Religion in Niger is only somewhat diverse. Islam contributes to about 93% of the total population, Animism 7%, and Christianity rounding it off at .7%. Despite the high Islamic population, Niger maintains a tradition as a secular state that is protected by law. Inter-faith relations are not seen as queer, but deemed very positive. The Islam traditionally practiced in most regions of the country is tolerant towards other faiths and does not restrict personal freedom. (Wikipedia, 2012) Despite the majority of Americans being Christian, religious tolerances of both Nations would not appear to be a major confliction in them working together.
When considering the perspective of the U.S. on this operation, it’s difficult to sum up the gains versus losses and come up with an answer as to whether this would even be a beneficial operation to both parties. The ramifications of Niger becoming a productive trading power on a global scale would certainly be a fantasy given its current state. Niger’s perspective on this operation could go several different ways. Would this be seen as an invasion? Would this be seen as the U.S. taking advantage of them? Would this be seen as a blessing? It’s difficult to say. In addition to the two main parties involved, another perspective to consider is of those who are currently very involved in Niger’s well-being, such as France. Despite previously being the sovereign of said country, France is the top donor of relief funds and other aid to Niger by a large margin. I would foresee France’s perception of any agreement of this magnitude between Niger and the U.S. to be suspicious to say the least. Even more worrisome, would France take on protective role of Niger against the U.S.?
In conclusion, several variables have been discussed in this report and analyzed to some degree. It is easy to foresee that if the U.S. were to ever take on a “Big Brother” type role towards Niger and conduct any operation on this large of a scale in order to aid in the development of Niger, the financial costs would likely be incalculable. In addition, the political ramifications to this could also lead to distrust and unrest among current friends and allies to the U.S. As President Barak Obama said, “I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.”
Wikipedia. (2012, Nov 3). Niger. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger#Transport
Central Intelligence Agency. (2012, Nov). The World Factbook. Retrieved from http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ng.html
FM 3-0. (2008, Feb). Operations. Retrieved from http://downloads.army.mil/fm3-0/FM3-0.pdf
Obama, B. (2008, Jul 24). A World That Stands as One. Retrieved from http://usliberals.about.com/od/electionreform/a/Obama-Berlin_4.htm…...