American weapons aiding coups and then being dispersed to terrorists is a tale as old as time. In Niger, the U.S. pursued short‐term goals of fighting terrorism and completely disregarded the risk of transferring weapons to Niamey. Nonetheless, at the end of July, a military armed with U.S. weapons led a coup in Niger and ousted their democratically elected leader, Mohamed Bazoum. General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the commander of Niger’s presidential guard, currently leads the country.
The U.S. State Department refuses to acknowledge this is a coup so they can continue sending weapons to Niger. Ironically, previous military assistance increased risks of coups and weapons dispersion.
Since the start of the Trump administration, the United States has delivered over $158 million in arms sales and $122 million in security assistance to Niger. These weapons transfers allowed Niger’s military to oust one of the only democratically elected presidents in West Africa.
In the future, Niger’s already‐limited control over its weapons is likely to worsen. A 2019 study from Conflict Armament Research found significant amounts of loose weapons in Niger’s Diffa region and terrorist groups like Boko Haram arming themselves with this dispersed weaponry. With the coup weakening the government’s control over armaments, Niger will become a likely location for even more weapons dispersion.
The Cato Institute’s 2022 Arms Sales Risk Index analyzes the risk of U.S. weapons recipients misusing and losing weapons. Niger is in the top‐fifth of risk for potential U.S. weapons recipients and has become riskier every year since 2018.
The reasons for this score are because of terrorism, state fragility, and lack of freedom from the state. Niger has the 10th worst score in Vision of Humanity’s Global Terrorism Index, the 24th most fragile state in The Fund For Peace’s Fragile State Index, and is only the 110th most free country in the Cato Institute and Fraser Institute’s 2022 Human Freedom Index.
Using these metrics, the Arms Sales Risk Index predicted that Niger was a country at risk for destabilizing events like coups and weapons dispersion.
Policymakers historically do not consider risk before selling weapons abroad. The result is instability in regions where Washington is committing resources to create stability. Niger is just the latest example of U.S. arms sales undermining U.S. goals.