(CNN) — The US is trying to negotiate an agreement with the military junta that took over Niger last July to leave behind a small contingent of US forces, even as a broad withdrawal order has been issued to enable the departure of the majority of the less than 1,000 US troops in the West African nation, according to US officials.

While some US officials have started conversations with Niger about what the withdrawal will look like, the civilian head of US special operations told CNN this week that the Pentagon has yet to have more detailed conversations with Niger, which will largely focus more on logistics of the withdrawal.

Officials said a US delegation will travel to Niger over the weekend to discuss how it will be carried out.

“We’ll make the most out of the situation that was presented to us but the intent is in Niger, to draw down to a level that the Nigerians can live with,” Chris Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told CNN.

“Niger is pretty profound in the decision of the government there … to have us depart or at least go to very low numbers,” Maier said.

Among the issues defense officials must resolve in their meetings with Niger’s government is an agreement to allow US military flights in and out of the country. Since the coup in July, airspace has been closed over Niger to foreign militaries who have all had to submit individual requests for airspace to conduct military flights, one US official told CNN.

A US military official explained that the withdrawal will come in phases over a period of months. The phase currently happening is the breakdown of anything not necessary for life or safety and security, which is being prepped to be taken out of the country. The footprint will continue to shrink in phases as equipment and personnel not deemed necessary are moved out of country.

The official also said that the hope of having a small number of troops remaining in the country is largely wishful thinking at this point despite the conversations still ongoing, as Niger’s government has been clear it wants US forces out.

US officials said the volatile situation in Niger is just the latest signal of growing instability on the continent of Africa, where a wave of military coups over the last several years has imperiled the American presence there and offered an opportunity for Russia to grow its influence. The US military footprint in Africa is relatively small and nominally is focused on counterterrorism efforts, but officials also believe that Africa is key in the global battle for influence between Russia and the United States.

Niger’s military government ended its military agreement with the US in March, and for several months now Russian forces have been operating in different camps of the same base housing US troops.

In addition to Niger’s expulsion of US forces, Chad has threatened to cancel its status of forces agreement with the US, further destabilizing the US’ presence on the continent. Although the small number of US troops in Chad makes it a less obvious military loss, a third US official said that it could be a bellwether for stability — and American influence — across the continent.

Gen. Michael Langley, the head of US Africa Command, told Congress in March that a “number of countries” in Africa were “at the tipping point of actually being captured by the Russian Federation as they are spreading some of their false narratives.” Maier echoed the same, saying Russia and China have “invested a lot more than we have” in information operations, which helps spread their influence.

American officials said it is difficult for the US to compete directly with what Russia is willing to offer some of the military leaders that have taken over governments in Africa. Russia can offer immediate security assistance — including weapons — in the fight against terrorism, assistance that comes with far fewer conditions than American aid.

“My concern among others is that the partnership that we rely on fundamentally to, we hope, help these countries is not there anymore, or they’ve replaced it in some instances with the elixir of Russia that promises things that are more rapid that might be what some of these governments, especially the coup governments, think they need in the short term,” Maier said.

The fear, according to the second US official, is that growing instability could create a swath of nations across Africa where the US can’t operate safely but Russia potentially can. That could have dramatic security implications beyond Africa, particularly if it imperils safe US access to the Mediterranean where the US military has been operating since Hamas’ invasion of Israel in October.

When it comes to Africa, the US “may be in a situation where we’re increasingly on the outside looking in,” Maier said. But he added that it could present an opportunity to show the ineffectiveness of Russia’s offers to African nations.

“Now some of these coup regimes have decided that they are going to go with the Russians, so now they’re the dog that caught the car,” he said. “And if there aren’t results — not only security space, but a lot of the other things that are part of governance — then the facts will start to outstrip even the most sophisticated mis and disinformation over time.”

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