US wants to reduce its military presence in Africa

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS)

A senior military official said in Washington on Monday that the United States wants to reduce its military presence in Africa, while France will host the heads of state of the five Sahel groups as part of its efforts to strengthen the fight against jihadists in the region.

“The resources can then be reduced and then transferred either to increase the readiness of the force in continental America or to the Pacific region,” said Joint Chief of Staff General Mark Millie.

He made his comments as he was going to talk to his NATO counterparts in Brussels.

It also comes after US President Donald Trump called last week for NATO to be better in the Middle East, while French President Emmanuel Macron meets his counterparts from Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania.

Millie said that US Defense Secretary Mark Asper has not yet decided what changes to make.

“We are working on formulating options for the minister to consider, and we are doing this in coordination with our allies and partners,” he added.

After the killing of 13 French soldiers in a collision of two helicopters in Mali last month, Macron wants public leaders of the Sahel states to publicly renew their support for the 4,500-strong French military force after demonstrations against it.

Washington wants to reduce the number of its soldiers deployed in Africa in the next few years to focus more on countering the threats of Russia and China.

And deployed about seven thousand elements of the Special Forces in shifts in Africa to conduct joint operations with local forces against the jihadists, especially in Somalia.

Another 2,000 soldiers are conducting training missions in some 40 African countries and participating in joint operations with the French “Barkhan” force in Mali, providing them with logistical assistance.

Among the options is the closure of a drone base in Agadez, north of Niger, which provides the United States with significant reconnaissance capabilities in the coast, but its cost is estimated at $ 100 million.

Milli said that no decisions had been taken yet, stressing that Washington would not withdraw completely from Africa, explaining that “reducing the number of soldiers does not mean zero.”

However, French officials are concerned, with a source in the presidency saying that the United States made “irreplaceable” contributions to the Sahel operations, especially in the field of reconnaissance and air refueling of the aircraft.

“We will not be able to obtain these matters from other partners regarding intelligence information,” the source said, adding that Paris would inform Washington of its concerns “at all levels.”

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