The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is expected to pull out more than 700 American troops from Africa despite the growing threat posed by jihadist groups in the region, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Under the National Defense Strategy unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump this year, the U.S. military is expected to transition its primary efforts away from counterterrorism and focus on Russia and China. However, both China and Russia maintain a military presence in Africa that has sparked concern from top U.S. military officers.
In a statement, DOD explained:
[Counterterrorism] activities in several areas, including Somalia, Djibouti and Libya largely remain the same. In other regions, such as West Africa, emphasis shifts from tactical assistance to advising, assisting, liaising, and sharing intelligence.
Overall, optimization efforts retain the flexibility to adjust, as required, to maintain a competitive posture in a dynamic, global environment.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from African countries is intended to be part of a realignment of forces around the world to focus on taking on adversaries like China and Russia.
The Pentagon explained in its statement:
The Department of Defense announced today the realignment of Counter-Violent Extremist Organization personnel operating in U.S. Africa Command to support priorities outlined in the National Defense Strategy. Over the next several years, the realignment projects a reduction of less than 10 percent of the 7,200 military forces serving in Africa Command.
The anticipated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Africa comes soon after a bipartisan review of Trump’s National Security Strategy — citing political dysfunction and bad budget decisions — determined that U.S. military superiority has “eroded to a dangerous degree,” adding that America may lose a war against China and Russia.
Citing the Pentagon, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted that most of the reductions to the American troops will be concentrated in West Africa, primarily home to Boko Haram and also Iran’s narco-terrorist Hezbollah.
This week, Nathan Sales, the top counterterrorism official at the U.S. Department of State, told American lawmakers that Hezbollah, which is heavily involved in trafficking illicit drugs from Latin America into Europe and beyond through Africa, has deployed Shiite terrorists to Africa, likely to oversee their narco activities with Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
An anonymous U.S. official indicated to Reuters that “the reduction of troops would likely take place over three years and could include countries such as Kenya, Cameroon, and Mali.”
“We will realign our counter-terrorism resources and forces operating in Africa over the next several years in order to maintain a competitive posture worldwide,” Candice Tresch, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters.