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article imageOp-Ed: US lawmakers resist plans to withdraw troops from Africa

By Ken Hanly     Jan 18, 2020 in Politics
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been publicizing the Pentagon plan that would see troops from Africa moved to Asian areas around China and Russia, for some time.
The plan would be part of the national defense strategy (NDS) designed to counteract the growing influence of Russia and particularly China in East Asia. The move could be seen as a continuation of the Obama strategy described as a pivot to east Asia.
US troops in Africa claimed to be key in the global war on terrorism
Both the top Democrat and the top Republican of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee warned Esper that he should reconsider plans to reduce US forces in Africa: " In a letter to Esper obtained by Defense News, HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., and ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, urged the secretary to “carefully consider the adverse implications of reducing our force posture in Africa,” cautioning that “the threat of violent extremism and terrorism persists” in the region overseen by U.S. Africa Command.“A decrease in our investment now may result in the need for the United States to reinvest at many more times the cost down the road,” the HASC leaders wrote in the letter, dated Jan. 16. It was also signed by House Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and ranking member Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.""
Among the reasons some critics gave for keeping the troops in Africa is that China and also Russia are also increasing their influence in Africa as well. However, China mostly uses economic and political means the increase it power in Africa.
Where the troop reductions could occur
A recent article suggests where the US troops might be removed: "U.S. troops in Africa have focused on defeating Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked militants such as al-Shabab. But several hundred U.S. troops in Niger, Chad and Mali are most likely to be pulled from the region as part of the Pentagon’s plan, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the internal discussions.In particular, reduction options on the table include vacating Nigerien Air Base 201, which just became operational in November and cost $110 million. U.S. Africa Command announced last month that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations previously conducted out of a base in Niamey, Niger, are now being conducted out of Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez."
Note that the plan takes troops from a base in Nigeria that was just finished last November at a cost of $110 million. The US may also remove US troops who are assisting French forces in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso a move that might anger France which already has about 4,500 troops in West Africa.
Ester's pivot to the Pacific may not happen
The plan to send troops from Africa to Asia may not happen given the resistance to it. Perhaps some could come from Iraq but Trump seems determined to keep them there to counter Iran in spite of the fact that the Iraqi government wants them to leave.
Even if the plan were to go ahead, it does not seem that the number of troops to be moved are sufficient to make much difference.
Mara Karlin of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies warns: “Meaningfully implementing, the NDS will be impossible without a hard and serious look at new and different risks that emerge from posture changes. But failing to do so will neuter the U.S. military’s ability to enhance its focus on Asia and Europe — and minimizes serious dialogue on the risks of a fat and increasing Middle East posture as well.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about US in Africa, US national defense strategy, Mark Esper
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