A Nigerien soldier apprehends a U.S. special forces soldier during a mock checkpoint during Flintlock 2014, a U.S.-led international training mission for African militaries, in Diffa, March 5, 2014.(REUTERS/Joe Penney)
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On a dusty training ground in Niger, U.S. Special Forces are teaching local troops how to deal with suspects who resist arrest.When Paris deployed 4,000 troops to fight Islamist militants in neighboring Mali last year, the U.S. military lent a hand by airlifting French soldiers and equipment, providing intelligence and training African forces to join the operation.The U.S. fast-tracked the sale of 12 Reaper drones to France last year, the first two of which started operating in Niger in January alongside U.S. drones that are already in operation.Many in Niger fear this conflict could spill over the border, and the government in Niamey has appealed for more military support.With over 1,000 troops from 18 nations, this year's three-week Flintlock exercise was the biggest yet, and fits around more permanent training by U.S. Special Forces in Niger, Mauritania, Senegal and Chad.Chad's military, however, has won praise for leading the charge alongside French troops in flushing out the militants from Mali's desolate northern mountains.U.S. officials stress the exercise is African-led, and are wary about people reading too much into U.S. troops being on the ground near African conflicts.
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