Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Brig. Gen. Huber’s title. She is the assistant adjutant general for the North Dakota National Guard.

WASHINGTON ― A West African union is considering diplomatic options in response to the July coup in Niger that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, the head of Ghana’s Army Staff told Defense News on Monday.

But Maj. Gen. Thomas Oppong-Peprah also noted a “military assessment” is underway to examine a possible armed intervention in Niger, a prospect the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, first floated in August after the bloc’s defense chiefs met in Ghana.

“What the regional body is doing is to explore diplomatic avenues to solve the problem,” Oppong-Peprah said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference. “Concurrently, the military is also doing some military assessment. And I believe that the regional body will succeed in the diplomatic effort so we don’t go to war.”

ECOWAS expelled Niger from the bloc shortly after Bazoum’s ouster and threatened military intervention unless the military junta released the deposed president. The ECOWAS threats failed to sway the junta in Niger, which instead said it would prosecute Bazoum on charges of “high treason.”

Niger is the latest country in West Africa to succumb to a spate of military coups in recent years, a trend that has posed questions about the future of U.S. military cooperation and counterterrorism objectives in the area.

The problem poses a particular challenge for U.S. counterterrorism operations in Niger.

U.S. Africa Command in September repositioned assets and personnel away from the capital Niamey to Agadez, which is roughly 570 miles away.

“We’ve been activated twice this year already as a joint task force,” Maj. Gen. Todd Wasmund, the commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa said at the AUSA conference. “The first time was in April in response to the instability in Sudan, and we are currently activated as a joint task force in response to the coup that occurred in Niger.”

Wasmund told Defense News the joint task force was created to protect U.S. citizens and interests in Niger following Bazoum’s ouster, noting that “we worked with the junta in order to facilitate conditions that lead to stability.”

“And we hope that it leads to us being able to continue or to resume our activities together in order to achieve stability, security and our shared interests,” he said.

Wasmund said U.S. security cooperation “will always be reevaluated when we have an extra-constitutional change of government” but added the Army “remains committed to conducting counterterrorism activities because it’s in the interest of the United States.”

In the meantime, the Army continues collaborating with its democratic African partners as well. Brig. Gen. Jackie Huber, the assistant adjutant general for the North Dakota National Guard, noted that the state has had a military partnership exchange program with Ghana for nearly 20 years.

For instance, the North Dakota National Guard simulated an earthquake response with Ghanian forces last year, and it helps develop Ghana’s noncommissioned officer corps.

“Presently we are engaged in six peacekeeping operations,” Oppong-Peprah said. “So the help that we get from North Dakota is really immense and beneficial to us.”

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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