Pentagon may cut forces in Africa in military review
A SWEEPING Pentagon review of elite US commando missions is likely to result in a sharp cut — by as much as half over the next three years — in Special Operations forces in Africa, military officials said.
Ordered by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in recent weeks, the assessment of Special Operations units worldwide follows an ambush in Niger that killed four US soldiers last year. The review is an outgrowth of a Defence Department strategy that focuses on combating rising threats from Russia and China.
More than 7,300 Special Operations troops are working around the world, many of them conducting shadow wars against terrorists in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and other hot spots. The Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, has assumed important new missions in recent years, as well, like taking the lead on combating weapons of mass destruction.
Spread too thin
Pentagon officials said Mattis and General Joseph F Dunford Jr, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are worried that the commandos are spread too thin. The two leaders have ordered the military’s Special Operations and Africa commands to present a range of options by mid-june to balance rising security challenges — which include North Korea and Iran — with vital counterterrorism operations.
A Pentagon investigation last month into the deadly attack in Niger exposed a risk-taking culture among commandos. That accelerated Mattis’s decision to abandon some counterterrorism missions in Africa to focus on global powers, according to two Defence Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The transition to the focus on Russia and China was outlined in the Trump administration’s national defence strategy released in January.
Of the 7,300 American commandos now operating in 92 countries, roughly half are posted outside the Middle East and South Asia, according to the Special Operations Command.
About 1,200 of those troops are on missions in Africa, and they face the most immediate likelihood of reductions. The Africa Command has been asked how it would conduct its counterterrorism missions if the number of commandos there were cut by 25 per cent over 18 months, and by 50 per cent over three years.
That would leave about 700 troops — roughly the same number as in 2014, according to data from the Africa Command’s Special Operations branch. By comparison, there were 70 Special Operations troops on the continent in 2006. By Thomas Gibbons Neff and Eric Schmitt
About 1,200 American commandos are on missions in Africa. This number could be reduced by 50pc over the next three years.