US mulls troop cuts in Africa as strategy switches to contain extremists

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The United States announced Wednesday an initial plan for adjusting its military presence in Africa.The adjustment comes as a new US government report says that the US military has switched from trying to degrade Islamic extremist groups in West Africas sprawling Sahel region to merely trying to contain them.


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

“The message Im 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.

US strategy aims to 'contain' extremist groups

The troops adjustment comes after the release earlier this week of a quarterly report by the inspectors general for the Pentagon, State Department and USAID – the first to be unclassified as interest surges in the US militarys activities in Africa.

The US depends especially on French and various African partner forces in West Africa in field operations, but the US strategy has changed from trying to degrade, or reduce the effectiveness, of those extremist groups in the Sahel to trying to keep them from growing their membership and spreading into new areas, AFRICOM told the Pentagon inspector general in the quarter ending Dec. 31.

The security situation in Burkina Faso “is deteriorating faster than anywhere else in the Sahel,” says the new report, citing theRead More – Source