The Pentagon is considering the withdrawing nearly all the commandos from Niger and several other military outposts across Africa. The plans have been tabled before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for approval and are motivated by October’s attack in Niger that left four US soldiers dead.
Upon approval, the plans will include the closure of military outposts in Tunisia, Cameroon, Libya, and Kenya, as well as seven of the eight American elite counterterrorism units operating in Africa. The cuts and troops withdrawal are in line with a shift of the US defense strategy that is projected to focus on threats from Russia and China. However, the use is set to remain active in Somalia and Nigeria where militants’ presence is high specifically from al Shabaab & ISIS and Boko Haram and ISIS respectively.
While the move is part of the larger defense strategy of the US, analysts have warned of dire consequences including the reversal of the gains made in the fight against terror organization such as al Qaeda and ISIS. Also, the move will diminish the severed ties with African allies and as such leave a vacuum that Russia and China could scramble to fill and thus causing an even greater security threat on the US overall.
The Pentagon’s defense strategy, issued in January, represents a renewed shift from fighting the insurgent wars of the last 16 years to large state-on-state conflicts. To comply with the projected change, the United States Africa Command will redistribute hundreds of US troops that are presently spread across the continent. The US’ reduction of permanently stationed troops in Africa will be observed but there will be periodical rotations of training contingents that will be deployed to various countries in Africa.
One of the most prominent reasons that have stirred the change in tactics by AFRICOM (established in 2007) is the increased capability of African troops to deal with insurgencies in their country. The training by the US troops has drastically improved the military capacity of the nations that hold US military outposts and as such stokes confidence in the ability of African militaries to deal and root out insurgencies and Islamists within their borders.
There are about 1,200 Special Operations forces in Africa. The proposal calls for cutting them as well as the supporting troops by 50 percent over the next three years a period that could be fast-tracked upon the approval by the defense department. The move is set to see African nations address the issue of extremism and violent outbreaks on their own with hands-on American assistance in ground combat, aerial and or kinetic assaults.