USA/WEST AFRICA – Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift

New York Times | Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt | Dec. 24, 2020

The deliberations stem from a push to reduce missions battling distant terrorist groups, and to instead refocus on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.”

But Mr. Trump is not so much ending wars as he is moving troops from one conflict to another, and Mr. Esper’s initiative aims to carry out that rebalancing.

Officials say the overhaul of Africa deployments will be followed by one in Latin America, and that drawdowns will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has been expected.