US plans strategic pullout of troops from Africa

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online
An American Special Forces sergeant and Nigerien forces last year in Agadez, Niger, during a joint training exercise with several African countries’ militaries.Credit...Tara Todras-Whitehill for The New York Times

WASHINGTON - Pentagon is planning reeducation and redeployment of troops stationed in Africa, with strategic mass pullout being on the offing.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered the drastic measure as a major step towards getting out of "endless and unnecessary" wars across the globe.

President Donald Trump has been keen to reduce the budget meant for troops working outside the US, something that could define his re-election in 2020.

West Africa is the most targeted operation base where the US troops have been helping French troops in Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, and other allied nations.

The shock move, the New York Times reported, will start being affected by as soon as in January, as part of significantly reducing the number of troops.

“We’ve begun a review process where I’m looking at every theater, understanding what the requirements are that we set out for, making sure we’re as efficient as possible with our forces,” Mr. Esper told reporters this month.

US troops under African Command account to between 6,000 and 7,000, most of them deployed ostensibly to provide secondary support to local troops.

The troops are part of the global effort in the fight against Boko Haram, ISIL and Al-Qaida, whose threat in West Africa is said not to be dangerous to the US.

Mr. Esper has given Africa Command until January to draft a withdrawal plan, as well as a plan for redeploying troops.

The defense secretary is also considering significant cuts in the Middle East.

In the coming months in Iraq, officials said, Mr. Esper may cut American presence to 2,500 troops from 5,000. And he has already conveyed a desire to withdraw about 4,000 of the nearly 13,000 troops now in Afghanistan.

But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there.

“ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.

However, the strategic plan will not immediately affect Somalia, a country that has been struggling with decades of civil war and Al-Shabaab menace.

Currently, at least 500 elite US troops operate in Somalia, where they closely work with Somalia National Army in waging onslaught against the militants.

Besides helping in intelligence gathering, the troops also train Special Forces commonly called Danaab, whose presence in SNA has strengthened the fight against Al-Shabaab.

In October, the Danaab forces thwarted would-be deadly attack are US army base at Ballidogle in Somalia in yet another positive contributions of the Americans.

In total, the US has about 200,000 troops serving outside Washington DC, a number which will be significantly reduced by the end of 2020.

The move could raise eyebrows from US military allies, who have been assisting terror-prone areas in Africa as part of various missions.


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