US to reduce African military footprint

US to reduce African military footprint

A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant speaks to a group of Niger soldiers during Exercise Flintlock early in the US deployment to that nation (US Army photo/Zayid Ballesteros)

WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. forces operating in Africa will be reduced by about 10 percent, in what the Pentagon is calling a transfer of resources to better match up against China and Russia.

The cuts will be on-ground support of anti-terrorism operations in western Africa, including Mali and Niger — two theaters that have faced internal complications. Intelligence sharing will continue, the Pentagon said.

“The department thoroughly evaluated counter-terrorism resources and forces to optimize our efforts and realign according to the NDS (National Defense Strategy). As a result, we will preserve a majority of our U.S. security cooperation, partnerships and programs in Africa that strengthen our partner networks and enhance partner capability and ongoing programs,” the Pentagon said in an email to reporters Thursday.  “However, we will realign our counter-terrorism resources and forces operating in Africa over the next several years in order to maintain a competitive posture worldwide.”

The Pentagon’s public number of U.S. forces in Africa is about 7,200. That does not include forces engaged in covert operations or those from the CIA or other agencies.

Drone operations are likely to continue at the current rate or increase, Pentagon officials told TMN. The U.S. intends to continue using its main facility in Djibouti and focus on support in efforts in Somalia and Libya, Pentagon officials said.

“The department and U.S. Africa Command remain committed to ensuring the end result remains a mission-focused, adaptable and agile force with placement and access on the continent dedicated to assisting our African and international partners,” the Pentagon statement said.

This week the Pentagon announced that two Navy Seals and two Marine Raiders will have an Article 32 preliminary hearing on December 10 for their role in the death of an Army Special Forces staff sergeant in Mali.

Among the charges against the four, who were not named: “felony murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary in the strangulation death of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar,” according to the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic public affairs.

Meanwhile, the father of one of the four Green Berets killed in an ambush in Niger in the fall of 2017 asked the Pentagon not to punish the Special Forces captain who led the mission.

Hank Black, a retired Marine Corps major, wrote and urged that the commanding officer, Capt. Mike Perozeni, not be given a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand for actions prior to the mission “which in all likelihood, would end Captain Perozeni’s Army career,” according to the New York Times, which published the letter.

Black’s son was Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, one of four Army Green Berets killed in the October 2017 Niger ambush. The others killed were Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, and Sgt. La David Johnson.

Perozeni is one of at least six individuals where punishment is being considered for the failed mission, Pentagon officials have told TMN. They are being faulted for inadequate training and mission planning, Pentagon officials said.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon quietly launched two counter-insurgency operations in Africa earlier this year even while officials were reviewing a disastrous, fatal 2017 operation in Niger and vowing to reduce the scope of efforts on the continent.

Pentagon officials have told TMN that that two of the probes into the fatal October 2017 Niger mission have been extended as Defense Secretary James Mattis was dissatisfied with the initial work.

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