Defense secretary eyes pullout from West Africa: report

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper is considering pulling U.S. troops from West Africa as part of a plan to shift deployments of the approximately 200,000 American forces stationed abroad, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

Under consideration is a plan to abandon a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger, and end assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the Times reports. 

The Pentagon will review Africa Command as part of what is being called a “blank slate” review of global operations, according to the newspaper, which added that an initial decision about Africa is expected in January. 

The planning has been closely held in the Pentagon and Congress has not been consulted, the Times noted. 

The U.S. has about 6,000 to 7,000 troops in Africa, with the largest number of them concentrated in the sub-Saharan region and in the Horn of Africa, it added. 

The proposed cut in Africa would likely focus on several hundred American troops deployed in Niger, Chad and Mali, the Times reports. 

Officials told the Times that a pullback in Africa would be followed by one in Latin America, as well as an expected one in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Esper is considering significant cuts in the Middle East, including a plan to reduce the U.S. military presence from 5,000 troops to 2,5000 in Iraq and withdrawing about 4,000 of the nearly 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, officials told the Times. 

“We aren’t going to speculate on future force postures,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

Updated at 11:39 a.m.

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