Small Wars Journal

U.S. Weighs Troop Cuts in Africa, Leaving Allies to Confront Growing Militant Threat

U.S. Weighs Troop Cuts in Africa, Leaving Allies to Confront Growing Militant Threat by Michael M. Phillips - Wall Street Journal

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania—At the closing ceremony of U.S.-led military exercises in this expansive Saharan nation, American diplomat R. Clarke Cooper stepped to the podium and assured African military commanders that Washington stands ready to help them in their time of need.

“The U.S. has an unwavering and longstanding commitment to Africa,” Mr. Cooper, the State Department’s assistant secretary for political-military affairs, said late last month.

In fact, U.S. allies are increasingly worried that America’s commitment may be wavering when wide swaths of Africa face a surging threat from militants affiliated with al Qaeda and Islamic State.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is conducting a world-wide review of troop commitments, in keeping with the Trump administration’s strategic tilt away from dispersed actions against terror groups and toward great-power competition with China and Russia.

Africa is the first region on Mr. Esper’s list, and military officers and lawmakers expect him to order fresh troop reductions on the continent, on top of the 17% cut in personnel over the past two years. The Pentagon hasn’t said when he will announce his decision.

The Pentagon has already sliced some 1,200 personnel from its rolls in Africa since deployments there hit a peak in 2018. It now has 6,000 troops and civilians concentrated in Niger in the west and in Somalia and Djibouti in the east. Instead of combat power, the U.S. offers specialized support for those doing the fighting…

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