The US army will withdraw hundreds of troops conducting counterterrorism operations across Africa over the next several years, the Pentagon has said, in a move that comes amid efforts to prioritise resources “for long-term competition with China and Russia”.
Currently, about 7,200 US military personnel are based in dozens of African nations, with notable footprints in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria and Libya.
Commander Candice Tresch, Pentagon spokesperson, said on Thursday that figure would be reduced by about 10 percent over the next few years.
Tresch did not specify which countries would see a drawdown but said the cuts would leave “counter-violent extremist organisation” activities largely untouched in several countries, including Somalia, Djibouti and Libya.
In other parts of the continent, including West Africa, the emphasis would shift from “tactical assistance to advising, assisting, liaising and sharing intelligence”, Tresch added.
A US official, speaking to the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said the reduction of troops would likely take place over three years and could include countries such as Kenya, Cameroon and Mali.
The role of the US military on the African continent has received increased attention after an ambush last year in Niger, claimed by a local Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) affiliate, which killed four US soldiers and several members of Nigerien partner forces.
The announcement by the Pentagon comes as it works on implementing President Donald Trump‘s sweeping National Defense Strategy, which highlights a new era of “Great Power competition” with Moscow and Beijing.