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Pentagon deploys forces to Africa to compete better with China and Russia

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — In order to “better compete with China and Russia”, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday a first adjustment of its forces in Africa with the repatriation of a combat unit which will be replaced by “instructors” responsible for training their African colleagues.

Defense Minister Mark Esper “has ordered the deployment of the Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) on the continent to conduct training, advice and assistance missions in key African countries”, Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah said in a statement cited by AFP.

Their arrival, intended to “better compete with China and Russia” in Africa, will allow the American army to repatriate the combat units of the 101st Airborne Division to its base at Fort Campbell, in Kentucky (south), a- she clarified.

According to a Pentagon official who requested anonymity, this exchange, which is expected in a few weeks, does not mean that there will be fewer American soldiers on the ground, the repatriated units representing roughly the same staff as the 800 “Instructors” who will replace them.

Russia and China, a threat to Washington in Africa

The United States wants to reduce its anti-jihadist operations around the world to better prepare to respond to what it sees as a threat from Russia and China to their military supremacy in the world.

But at the same time, they do not want to leave the field free in Africa to Moscow and Beijing, which seek to increase their influence on the continent, underlined Wednesday the boss of the American ground forces in Africa, the general Roger Cloutier.

“The message I send to my (African) partners is that we are not leaving,” said General Cloutier during a teleconference at the Pentagon. “We are still involved”.

According to a recent report from the office of the Pentagon’s Inspector General, an independent body, the first public report of US military operations on the African continent, “the terrorist threat in Africa persists and in some places is increasing “.

Africom changes its strategy

The American military command for Africa (Africom) modified its strategy vis-a-vis the extremist groups on the continent, by fixing from now on the objective to contain them and not either to weaken them, notes the inspector general Glenn Fine, in this report.

Some 6,000 American soldiers are currently deployed in Africa, the report said, including 800 in West Africa where they support France’s anti-jihadist efforts in the Sahel, and 500 elements of the special forces in Somalia where they fight the Shebab jihadists, affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The largest American base is that of Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti (3,000 American soldiers).

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