The Pentagon has approved a long-awaited plan to reduce the number of US troops conducting counterterrorism missions in Africa over the next three years, three US officials tell CNN.
One defense official told CNN that the planned reductions would reduce the number of US counterterrorism troops and their enablers who support operations by approximately 25%.
Officials say the projected plan will reduce the total number of US forces assigned to US Africa Command by “less than 10%.”
While the exact number of affected forces is unknown, there are approximately 7,200 Department of Defense personnel assigned to Africa Command at present.
However, given the relatively few number of US troops assigned to counterterrorism missions in Africa, any reductions could still have an adverse effect.
Special Operations Command Africa has approximately 1,200 troops operating in about a dozen countries such as Niger, Somalia and Cameroon, where they primarily advise local forces battling a variety of terrorist groups.
US officials have been communicating the plan to African partner nations over the last few weeks and an official announcement is expected soon.
The Pentagon confirmed the plan in a statement issued later on Thursday.
“The Department of Defense released the National Defense Strategy earlier this year and provided clear guidance on how the department will prioritize efforts and resources for long-term competition with China and Russia, and build a more lethal force for major combat,” Pentagon spokesperson Cdr. Candice Tresch said in a statement.
“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,” she said while adding that “this realignment specifically projects to reduce forces by about 10 percent over the next several years.”
“The department and US 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,” she added.
The planned reductions are part of a broader global effort intended to help better align the US military’s global posture with the Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy which focuses more on “near-peer” competitors like Russia and China as opposed to counterterrorism missions.
According to two officials familiar with the decision, the plan “will realign counterterrorism resources and forces operating in Africa over the next several years” in order “to maintain a competitive posture worldwide” while also adopting a more “sustainable” approach to counterterrorism.
“Being prepared for a counterterrorism fight is not the same as being prepared for a fight with Russia or China,” a senior defense official told CNN.