US Defense Secretary Eyes Pullout From West Africa

Redeployment from region would be first in moves aimed at Russia and China

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper is interested in seeing a substantial reduction in troops and operations ongoing in Western Africa, with the troops being redeployed to areas closer to Russia and China.

This comes, ironically, amid speculation about the Islamist factions in the Sahel, and suggestions this might be a growing priority for the US. Esper, however, has made much of wanting to have more troops directly lined up against Russia and China for “Great Power” competitions.

Among the pullouts in West Africa would be ending US operations in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The end of US involvement in Niger would include abandoning the $110 million drone base that the US just got finished building and bringing into operation.

After West Africa, the plan is that the US will also draw down forces in Latin America, and subsequently then cut troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, all as part of a new pivot to Eastern Europe and the Pacific.

Exactly how many troops are going to be involved isn’t clear, and indeed how many troops are in some of these areas is not publicly known any longer, given the Pentagon’s recent opacity on such figures.

The eagerness to make such moves at all represents Esper having only recently taken over the Defense Secretary post, and wanting to put his stamp on it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.