US set to pull African troops

The Citizen (KZN) - - World -

Wash­ing­ton – The US an­nounced an ini­tial plan for ad­just­ing its mil­i­tary pres­ence in Africa amid con­cerns the coun­try will re­duce forces fight­ing rad­i­cal ji­hadists on the con­ti­nent.

The first change will see part of one in­fantry unit – about 800 troops – re­placed with a sim­i­lar num­ber of mil­i­tary train­ers and ad­vi­sors to sup­port lo­cal forces in “spot­light African coun­tries,” De­fence De­part­ment of­fi­cials said.

“The mes­sage I’m re­lay­ing to my (African) part­ners is we are not walk­ing away,” US Army Africa com­man­der Ma­jor-Gen­eral Roger Cloutier told re­porters. “We are still en­gaged.”

The move is the first re­sult­ing from a sweep­ing Pen­tagon review of the pres­ence of US forces around the world in an ef­fort to bet­ter align that pres­ence with US de­fense pri­or­i­ties – which list China and Rus­sia as the prin­ci­ple threats to the coun­try.

That could mean re­duc­ing US de­ploy­ments meant to con­front Is­lamic mil­i­tant threats, in­clud­ing in Africa.

But the Pen­tagon is also wary of leav­ing a vac­uum in cer­tain ar­eas, like in Africa, for the Chi­nese and Rus­sians to fill, which could give them strate­gi­cally valu­able footholds.

The US has about 6 000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel through­out Africa, in­clud­ing 800 in West Africa, 500 Spe­cial Forces in So­ma­lia and an un­spec­i­fied num­ber at an air base in Niger. – AFP

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